By: Katy Wong – Ethnic Seattle

December 11, 2015

Seattle, the birth place of gourmet espresso coffee is no stranger to the bevy of coffee drink varieties served around town.   However, walk into a Vietnamese restaurant or food service place and you’ll be hard press to find a good cup of expresso.  Instead, what you will find is the ultimately addicting Vietnamese French coffee, also known as Café sua da.  A strong and thick coffee sweeten with condensed milk served over ice.  A perfect finish and balanced drink to cleanse the palate after a Vietnamese meal.  The French introduced coffee to Vietnam in the 1800s, and while they love to have cream with their coffee, it was hard to keep fresh due to the hot climate.  Thus, the introduction of sweeten condensed milk.  Which was cheaper to import and had a longer shelf life.  The French also introduced the coffee filter, a mini version of the French press, which is still used today to make individualized cups of coffee.

One of the key processes in brewing a good cup of Vietnamese coffee is the filter process; the slow brewing technique creates a pure and rich dark coffee that gives it a stronger aroma and taste. The sweetened condensed milk provides a thicker and creamier richness to the coffee, which enhances the smoothness.

Most Vietnamese restaurant will serve the coffee table side, and each order consists of a cup filled with about 1-2 tablespoon of sweeten condensed milk, the filter placed on top of the cup filled with hot water, and a glass of ice on the side.  It takes about 8-10 minutes for the hot water to filter completely through, rendering the coffee in the cup.  Once done, you simply stir and mix with the condensed milk, and pour over ice.  The beauty of Vietnamese coffee is that it is not a rushed process, the longer it takes, the better the coffee, which allows for a prolonged visit with friends this holiday while you wait it out.  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

Visit one of our participating restaurants for a pre-packaged Vietnamese coffee kit, including filters, Vietnamese imported coffee and condensed milk.  Everything you need to make that perfect cup of Vietnamese coffee.  This package also makes a great gift for that friend who can simply not function without that cup (or two) of daily joe.


  1. Stainless Steel Filter
  2. Ground coffee of your choice- usually grinded on a number 5 or 6, or espresso grind
  3. Sweetened Condensed Milk
  4. Glass or mug (Use glass if you want to watch the brewing process)
  5. Ice (Not required)


  1. Add 1-2 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk to cup/glass, you can add more or less depending on your preference.
  2. Remove the cap on top of the filter and press inside filter
  3. Add ground coffee to the filter. The amount of ground coffee you put depends on the type of coffee, but usually about 2 heaping tablespoon.
  4. Replace the press, screw or press it firmly depending on filter model.
  5. Place the filter on top of the cup and pour boiling water into the filter.
  6. Cover the top filter and wait for 8-10 minutes.
  7. Mix the coffee and condensed milk. Pour over ice!

Here is a video about how to make Vietnamese coffee!

Can’t wait to brew a cup of Vietnamese coffee at home? For this holiday, Ethnic Seattle has worked with several ethnic stores and has prepared you coffee gift sets!

pho Bac

For $20, you can get a coffee gift set at Seattle’s Pho Bac with a well-known Vietnamese coffee bean Cafe Du Monde Tin, sticker, a coffee filter system, condense milk and a glass.


Rainier Valley’s Tony’s Bakery and Deli will also be selling an Ethnic Seattle exclusive Coffee Gift Set for $16! The set includes a cute holiday mug, a stainless steel single-cup coffee filter, Tony’s Bakery Blend ground coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and a recipe card!

photo 5 (1)

If you are interested in other cool coffee sets, an authentic Ethiopian coffee gift set at Amy’s Merkato Ethiopian will provide everything you need for $39.99.

Check out Ethnic Seattle’s Holiday Shopping Guide for more information and sales!