Asia’s Quirkiest Coffee Cities
Coffee. It’s a daily essential for some of us. As we jostle for space during our daily commute or gaze into the endless tail lights of traffic in the morning, that fragrant brown pick-me-up at the end of the tunnel always makes it better.
We love coffee here (the countless cafés popping up around Hong Kong are a testament to that), but this culture is by no means our own - billions of people around Asia enjoy it as well, some in ways unique to their country. We chase the caffeine trail around the world’s most populated continent and uncover some intriguing ways coffee is brewed, served, and enjoyed. Who knows - after a quick flight down to Asia’s best cafés, you might discover a whole new brand of java to swear by!
Vietnam - Egg Coffee
Let’s start on the extreme end with Vietnam’s egg coffee! While dropping an egg into our cup of java isn’t common here, the practice isn’t entirely unheard of - some Scandinavian countries do it to achieve a milder, smoother taste in their brew.
Vietnam’s variation, however, takes a completely different direction. The yolk of an egg is mixed in with a generous amount of condensed milk, before it is beaten into a frothy meringue-like mixture. The concoction is then poured onto an espresso or iced coffee and served immediately.
While there are several tutorials online that teach you how to make your own Vietnamese egg coffee, true coffee connoisseurs will have no qualms taking a trip down to where it all started - Cafe Giang, where founder Nguyen Giang developed the recipe while working as a bartender for the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel. The reviews speak for themselves - while some have trouble finding the quiet coffee house, no one leaves unsatisfied.
South Korea - Dalgona Coffee
You’ve probably seen people on social media make this as you stayed home during the COVID-19 lockdown, or have tried making this yourself. However, did you know about the Dalgona coffee’s true origins? This fluffy cup of Joe actually came from the shores of Macau, but was first dubbed as dalgona by Jung Il-woo, a visiting South Korean actor, due to its resemblance to the similarly named Korean sponge candy. TikTok caught on, and the rest is history.
It’s a really easy drink to rustle up with ingredients you already have at home, but there’s nothing quite like getting a cuppa at where it all started. The drink’s exploding popularity in South Korea has not gone unnoticed as well - many establishments in the city have begun selling their unique takes on dalgona in bubble teas or on toast. Give your tummy a treat and try them all!
Thailand - Oliang
Oliang, or Thai iced coffee, is not a word derived from their official language. The name comes from the Teochew dialect and translates literally as “black cold”. Despite the rough origins, the coffee is smooth beyond measure, and is a Thai restaurant staple. Oliang is never the same - each restaurant has its own recipe, throwing in spices and seeds that capture local hearts and captivate tourist tongues.
Deliciously bitter on its own, but paired perfectly with condensed milk or sugar, you’d probably smell it the moment you bundle out of your taxi into the Bangkok city centre. Follow the scent, provided you don’t get distracted by every other fragrant street food on sale there, and you’ll start a good holiday right.
Philippines - Creme Brulee Coffee
Creme brulee is by no means exclusive to the Philippines, but their obsession with its caffeine cousin is definitely worth a shout-out! The sugary goodness of the caramelized upper contrasts beautifully with the raw bitterness of fresh coffee brews, and is a welcome respite for connoisseurs with a sweeter palate.
Want to try this clash of flavours in its hometown? Single Origin is a café that welcomes not only caffeine chasers, but alcohol lovers as well. Pop by anytime for their hearty all-day breakfasts with a piping hot dessert you can drink, and while the day away relaxed and dreamy - just like how all holidays should be.
Indonesia - Avocado Coffee Smoothie
Fans of Muslim food may know of a mythical drink that exists only within the walls of deviants - the sinful avocado chocolate drink. It’s as satisfying as it sounds, and coffee lovers will be ecstatic to hear that replacing chocolate with coffee makes the drink even better! Found in Indonesia, the world’s fifth largest exporter of avocados, the coffee fusion is just one of many ways avocado is adapted in the archipelago. Served over ice or blended together, the body of the avocado injects a satiating fullness to every sip.
The abundance of avocado here allows any restaurant, big or small, to come up with smoothies on their own - make a quick pit stop at a warung or family-owned small business, vibe at a suburban hipster hideout or turn up the luxe at a hotel restaurant, and you’ll find this sweet delicacy on offer!
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