Coffee in, words out. My morning ritual back in my days as a copywriter in Vietnam. But not just any coffee. It has to be the coffee roasted in butter oil, drip-brewed over condense milk, then mixed in some fresh milk and ice. We call it “ca phe sua da”, and just a spoonful of it can brighten up your day. Vietnamese coffee is extremely strong. Think double-shot, or even triple-shot in Australian standards. The drip brew method allow more caffeine to be extracted into the final liquid, and more time for us to enjoy the sweet unique aroma. In Saigon, we read morning newspapers over coffee, discuss businesses over coffee, and even hang out with friends over coffee. The coffeehouse has become something of a public sphere, where Saigonese meet and greet each other. Some houses pre-make their coffee to quickly serve the guests, but most Saigonese would order it in the traditional way: drip-brewing over a metal filter (phin). We prefer it slow. When I first moved to Melbourne, I sincerely missed the rich aroma and thick taste of Vietnamese coffee. I missed those times sitting by a dripping cup of coffee, listening to the sweet songs of old times – the voices of Khanh Ly, Tuan Ngoc or Thai Thanh. And most of all, I miss the feeling of living slowly, talking slowly and breathing slowly. Eventually, I learned to love the light taste of latte, and the lightning speed of life, of a 2-minute coffee, a 10-minute tram, a 24-hour deadline, a 6-hour sleep. There’s only one thing missing in that perfectly prescribed schedule: A time for doing nothing, over a slow sip of coffee!

Trinh Le


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