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Korean coffee not cutting it

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We’ve been trying to ween ourselves off the Vinacafe Vietnamese Instant Coffee here at SBM, but the other day we were at the Korean market and spotted some hazelnut instant coffee packs and thought we would give it a whirl. The difference between the brews is startling. The Korean mix is a pleasant, milky beverage, akin to Postum or Ovaltine. But it is weak–we have to put TWO packets into a large cup to get any kind of flavor momentum. And it does not have the visceral gut punch of caffeine excitement the Vietnamese stuff packs.

We’ve tried Japanses all-in-one instant coffee packs, as well, and they are not as strong either. Does this mirror local drinking patterns? We’ve had lots of Japanese coffee sodas and canned coffees but none of them packs what we’d call “that Code Red Punch.” Vietnam is known for its good quality robustica exports, so it may just be a matter of the local beans being higher quality.

Or else the Vietnamese are just excitement junkies.

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  1. Heidi, you have a problem. You need to get help. Soon your teeth will be stained yellow as you chew on coffee beans still warm from the roaster from Whole Foods. Your breakfast buzz will be supplemented by oatmeal cooked with coffee grounds, your dinners polished with a sweet cream delight.

    You may laugh, thinking you can quit any time, you’re not like those wretched souls dumpster-diving behind Starbucks… but beware you do not fall into the abyss which is the bottomless cup of coffee. Fate may be read in tea leaves, but peril can be found in the swirling whorls of a coffee cup.

  2. Re: “Vietnamese are just excitement junkies”

    This is totally true.

    Where can I acquire this magical Vinacafe?

  3. Thanks, Heidi!

    Can’t believe I haven’t tracked down a Viet grocer in my six years in NYC. I only just discovered Saigon Banh Mi on Broome a few months ago. Delicious!

  4. Heidi – shame on you for doubting the Vietnamese coffee! You have, I trust, had the fresh-brewed stuff in the French press at a Vietnamese restaurant? Truly heaven in liquid form.

  5. Soon your teeth will be stained yellow as you chew on coffee beans still warm from the roaster from Whole Foods. Your breakfast buzz will be supplemented by oatmeal cooked with coffee grounds, your dinners polished with a sweet cream delight.

    Those are BAD things?

    French press, coarse grind Grumpy Monkey blend from Small World Coffee is my drug of choice on the commute in the mornings.

  6. It’s the French colonial influence on Vietnam. For the same reason you can get awesome coffee, baguettes and La vache qui rit cheese in Cambodia also.

  7. Like others have commented, since Vietnamese culture is so mixed with French, it is not a wonder that their coffee would be the best of the asian types. ;)

  8. Well try being stuck in Korea being able to drink only that painfully weak Korean coffee. I have tried all sorts of coffee, but even after 4 or so cups that wonderful caffeine buzz has still eluded me. I actually feel more tired from drinking the warm bev.

  9. If you’re drinking instant coffee, it hardly matters. Nothing instant is made from quality beans. What’s probably the major malfunction here is that Koreans and Japanese began drinking instant coffee as vending machine fare in small paper cups. One regular coffee mug stateside would require two or three packets in to approach a “single serving.” Also, since instant coffee is generally not that great in terms of taste, both Koreans and Japanese mask the flavor with copious amounts of powdered creamer and sugar.
    The canned coffees you’ve tried from Japan also reflect merely some local coffee history. When real coffee was available, it was brewed in inferior machines or using only small amounts due to expense. At home, many Koreans and Japanese still brew their coffee more like a tea. That said, many of the UCC brand coffees are quite strong.
    In contrast though, what you get in coffee shops in Korea and Japan is often quite elegant and VERY strong. The latest fad is for hand-drip, which can reach nearly espresso-levels of thickness and depth. Espresso drinks are also incredibly popular, and coffee shops are EVERYWHERE.
    But that instant stuff? Nah, you’ll just have to drink it from a smaller cup or put more of it in.

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