Home Coffee industry “Bold and Tough”: An Expert’s Guide to Brewing Better Vietnamese Iced Coffee

“Bold and Tough”: An Expert’s Guide to Brewing Better Vietnamese Iced Coffee


Lan Ho always felt that something was missing in the coffee market.

“Coffee is harvested all over the world – South America, Africa – but I felt little attention was paid to the people behind the beans, especially those working in Vietnam, which is the second largest coffee producer in the world,” Ho told Salon Food. “It really opened my eyes that Vietnamese coffee isn’t like it’s on the menu, and I think it should be.”

This realization led Ho, a Chicago-based pharmacist, to co-found the company. Fat Milkan artisan coffee roaster and retailer that ships nationwide, with the goal of bringing Vietnamese coffee into the American mainstream.

“Not only do I want to do the accessible cafebut I wanted to tell the story of Vietnamese coffee culture, which is incredibly robust and bold and is a dominant space in the industry,” she said.

Of course, Ho said, any coffee originating in Vietnam is technically “Vietnamese coffee,” but many people — including his customers — associate it with a coffee drink you see traditionally consumed in the country, made by filtering rich black coffee over ice and sweetened condensed milk. This iconic drink is also the one Ho wants to spotlight.

Currently, she’s gearing up to open Fat Miilk’s first storefront in Chicago’s “Little Vietnam” neighborhood this fall, but in the meantime, Ho spoke with Salon about what goes into making the perfect Vietnamese iced coffee in the House.


Ho: “Really, what makes it ‘Vietnamese coffee’ is the origin, isn’t it? Vietnam harvests the two main species of coffee, Robusta and Arabica. Ninety-seven percent of coffee harvest in Vietnam is Robusta So if you are harvesting coffee from Vietnam – whether or not you have it as cà phê sữa đá or one french press or one drip – you drink Vietnamese coffee.

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“But what’s really interesting is that I basically named my business Fat Miilk after the drink because I feel like it’s ultimately something to talk about, right? “And when most people have Vietnamese coffee, it’s served in a very traditional way, which starts with the Vietnamese Robusta Bean. It’s a bean that has twice as much caffeine as Arabica. It’s very bold , nutty and chocolatey, and it has a very low acid profile. It goes so well with a bit of sweetened condensed milk over ice cream.”

The gear

Ho: “The best thing about Vietnamese coffee is that it’s incredibly humble and so easy. We usually prepare Vietnamese coffee using a slow drip phin filter tool. It’s simple. The filter is filled with coffee grounds and hot water is poured over the grounds. It takes him five minutes, six minutes to finish flowingbut it’s worth the wait.”

condensed milk

Ho: “Generally, traditional sweetened condensed milk has a lot of sugar in it. I mean, that’s literally what it is: just sugar and milk. The brand that the Vietnamese have always used is the mark of longevity. We at Fat Miilk are currently working on our own line of sweetened condensed milk to really shed some light on all the variations that exist. We look forward to being able to integrate them vertically into all of our concepts and ideas, but longevity is our priority. It’s what my parents and grandparents use.”

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