Hanoi - WIN Otto - Entry #1

My family and I used to live in Bangkok, which is where I went to high school.

It was in Thailand that I grew up on Starbucks frappuccinos. I was more of a tea drinker back then and had not yet acquired the taste for coffee as I now have. Following high school, the University of Victoria became my new home. My favourite haunt for plowing away at essays and term papers was the Caddy Bay Starbucks. My taste for coffee has developed since then and my palette has definitely expanded to include bolder, more exciting coffee.

I mean, I used to shun cappuccinos for goodness sake! It was all about experimentation. I progressed from the very sweetest frappuccinos, to caffe lattes to the americano. One of the main experiences that made me realize the potential for coffee and flavor was not at Starbucks. And it is one of the fondest memories of my life. After completing my first year at UVic, I spent my summer vacation in Bangkok.

My mother had travelled to Hong Kong with my siblings (in my absence). And since I’d be in Bangkok for several months, my mother was generous enough to treat us with a trip to Hanoi. A kind of mother and son only adventure. Since my interest in coffee was at an all-time high, we decided to find a place that sold the national brand, Trung Nguyen.

I had previously read about a particular kind of coffee only found in Vietnam, known as “chon” coffee. “Chon” is a furry creature similar to a weasel. What’s so fascinating about the chon coffee is the way it is produced. After the weasel is fed coffee beans, and partly digests them, the beans are collected from the weasel droppings and processed into a very special coffee ground. As my mother and I learned at the Trung Nguyen café, the chon coffee is made in a single cup filter and drunk over ice. Our barista poured hot water into the filter.

The coffee slowly dripped from the filter into a cup and formed a very thick liquid. The taste was like no other coffee out there. It was chocolatey and sweet with a lovely aftertaste that lingered. We were so excited about the drink that we bought one of the special filters each, along with a few pounds of the coffee.

It was a learning experience for me since I realized delicious coffee can be quite simple to make once one has the right ingredients and filters. After returning to Victoria I bought a Bodum French Press, which is my choice brewing style these days. It’s ironic that I used to crave sweet coffee drinks since I prefer black coffee today. The “chon” experience also prepped my taste buds for future coffee adventures. Whatever samples we’re offered at Finnerty Express (where I work) I have no fear of daring. Even if they once originated from the insides of a furry forest creature.