Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lao Coffee

One of the worst things that Nick and I had while we were in Indonesia was their coffee. Basically “Bali Coffee” is just water mixed up with coffee grinds – always gritty and almost guaranteed to lodge little brown bits in between your teeth.

Pulling a close second for horrible coffee of the world is Laos. Nick has actually grown fond of thick-as-mud Lao coffee, but I just can’t seem to acquire a taste for it.

Aside from being especially strong, Lao coffee has another special quirk: it always comes with condensed milk.

Occasionally you will have an opportunity to drink Lao coffee with non-dairy creamer or fresh milk, but typically they will go ahead and add about an inch of the thick, sugary milk syrup for you. It makes for an interesting mix – you can still taste the extreme bitterness of the coffee, but it’s so sweet that you have to suck the sugar off your teeth after drinking it – quite literally, drinking Lao coffee is a bittersweet experience.

But if Lao coffee is a bit strange, ice Lao coffee is completely bizarre. They start by filling your cup ½ full with condensed milk and then top that off with a white powder (which looks to me like non-dairy creamer, but might be sugar or powdered milk).  
Then they add a little bit of coffee
and throw it in a big cup of ice. Top it off with fresh milk, and there you have it – Lao Ice Coffee: the sweetest drink on earth.
It's like sucking on a block of rock-sugar. I had to pucker my lips after every sip. Neither I nor my friend could finish our glasses, but Nick, who usually cringes at how sweet I make my coffee, was happy to finish both of them for us. I’m not sure how anyone manages to drink this stuff on a regular basis without contracting diabetes.


  1. Well all I can say is that you didn't get your coffee from the right place. In Luang Prabang, on the corner of the 'food stall' alley, near the roundabout, at the beginning of the night market, I had some of the best coffee ever tasted. You only get the condensed milk if you ask for it.
    I did however have some bad experiences in other places, where the coffee was watery.
    Guess coming from the US influences you judgement. Still you can always visit Starbucks and buy their woefully expensive piss.

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  3. Lao coffee is one of best coffees I ever had. It was consistently good.... it was so good that I am looking for a recipe how to make it... I have bought tons of coffee and I am trying to reproduce the taste but I get pretty much starbucks piss,,,

  4. I was just in Laos and the coffee was fantastic!!

  5. I agree, you may have had a bad coffee experience as I just returned from Luang Prabang and it was always served with the condensed milk on the side . I am absolutely craving the stuff and like HaHaZi, I am also looking for a proper recipe for the boiling of the grounds in cheesecloth as we saw.

  6. I spent two months in Laos and really really enjoyed the coffee. One of my main worries before I left was how the coffee and beer would be and I was not disappointed at all. Beer Lao was surprisingly good, but the coffee - awesome!