6 Creative Ways to Get Your Vietnamese-Style Coffee Fix

Vietnamese Iced Coffee is brewed using a filter called a phin

The French introduced coffee to Vietnam in the 1850s. Today, the Southeast Asian country is the world’s second largest producer of coffee, after Brazil and ahead of Colombia, according to World Atlas.

I love good coffee, and when I want a strong, but sweet cup of joe, I’ll drink a Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s made with strong, dark roast coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and served with ice. (Or skip the ice and enjoy it hot!)

You can find it at Vietnamese restaurants or you can make it at home.

Since I don’t go to restaurants often and I don’t have a phin, the special metal coffee filter used to brew Vietnamese coffee, I’ve learned to get creative!

When a craving strikes, I’ll either go to a coffee shop and order Vietnamese-style coffee or I’ll try to make it at home.

For example:

  • Peet’s Coffee offers a drink they call a Black Tie, which is a cold brew beverage inspired by Vietnamese and New Orleans coffee
  • The website, Hack the Menu, claims that there’s a “secret menu” drink at Starbucks called Liquid Cocaine, which includes four shots of espresso

PSA: While I appreciate the hyperbole in its provocative name suggesting that a drink with a quad-shot of espresso is akin to cocaine, I want to be clear: I don’t advocate cocaine! (Say nope to dope, kids!)

In fact, I’ve even modified the Starbucks “hack” to cut back on the drug that is caffeine!

When I have a hankering for a Vietnamese-style iced coffee, I order two shots (not four) with three pumps of white chocolate mocha sauce (not four), plus a splash of heavy cream over light ice:

Want this beverage, but not in the mood to leave the house? Here are a few ideas on how to make Vietnamese-style (iced or hot) coffee at home without the special filter (phin):

  • If you have a Nespresso machine at home, try their recipe for iced coffee that they call by its Vietnamese name, Cà Phê Sữa Đá
  • If you have a Keurig brewing system, use a K-Cup with dark roast coffee, like Café du Monde (or fill a reusable K-Cup with your favorite dark roast coffee)
  • You could also use a pre-made cold brew coffee from the grocery store and add it to a glass filled with ice and sweetened condensed milk

OR…you can make a reservation at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant and enjoy one of these with your meal:

Brewed coffee and sweetened condensed milk poured over ice

Got any coffee hacks you’d like to share? Tell me in the comments below! ☕️

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my other posts about coffee, like:

SBUX @ CDG Paris Airport

Taking a Load Off at Laundré in San Francisco

Visiting Seattle: Original Starbucks

Two French Bakeries and the Blue House in San Francisco

In my blog post, If You’re Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Watch These Videos Filmed There,” I described how a blue house in San Francisco inspired Maxime Le Forestier to write a French song entitled, “San Francisco.”

I recently got the chance to see the house on 18th Street made famous by the song:

I happened to walk past la maison bleue en route from one French bakery to another French bakery! Quelle coïncidence!

Tartine (600 Guerrero Street)

Ever since my colleague told me about Tartine, a French bakery in the Castro District that he and his wife liked to frequent for brunch, I’d been wanting to go. Thankfully, I relied on my Maps app to find it.

There’s no sign on the building with “Tartine” on it, but you’ll know you’re at the right place when you spot the line out the door. Was the patisserie trying to be unassuming or anonymous? Either way, I figured it added to the mystique.

Once inside, it’s a tight squeeze. I did notice that people were pretty good about eating then promptly leaving so other patrons could have a seat. There were a few tables and chairs outside, too.

While you wait, you can read their laminated menus while you hum along to pop music they play inside at a deafening volume. (Maybe that helps clear the tables…Brilliant!)

Don’t expect service with a smile, though. I got the impression that the people behind the counter and pastry case take themselves too seriously. Fortunately, I have the superpower to tune out the ‘tude and focus on what I came here for:

The pain au chocolat was divine. A billion buttery and flaky layers with gooey dark chocolate inside. My cafe au lait was served in a bowl, like they do in Paris!

Le Marais Bakery (498 Sanchez Street)

I had read positive reviews for another French bakery called Le Marais Bakery. It was three blocks away from Tartine, so I decided to check it out while I was in the neighborhood.

This chocolate chip cookie was delicious:

On that note, have a sweet day! 🍪

Visiting Seattle: Original Starbucks

If you’re a coffee addict like me, then you’ll want to visit the “Original Starbucks” when visiting Seattle.

Did you know there are two originals in town? One is the first store that opened in 1971 and the other is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room that opened in 2014.

I like one more than the other.

1912 Pike Place storefront

1912 Pike Place

Skip the Original Starbucks on 1912 Pike Place.

Go ahead, take the obligatory selfie at the storefront with the siren in all her topless glory. Just don’t wait in line for an hour to get inside, where it’s cramped and they sell the standard food and coffee drinks. It’s good stuff, but you can find ’em at any Starbucks.

⭐️ The much better option to get your “Original Starbucks” fix is to visit the upscale Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on 1124 Pike Street.

Imagine: Fancier food and beverage options in addition to standard Starbucks offerings you love. Ceramic cups and plates on wooden trays. Tables and chairs. No crowds. And no waiting in long lines.

Sounds more inviting, right? Go ahead, luxuriate in there for an hour!

pizze al taglio and an almond cookie from Princi bakery

Princi bakery located inside the Seattle Roastery

The best part is that you get treated to a show of coffee beans going through the roasting and bagging process in batches.

There are currently five Starbucks Reserve Roasteries in the world. The original opened in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle in December 2014. Since then, Starbucks has opened Roasteries in Shanghai, Milano, New York, and Tokyo. (Opening soon in Chicago!)

📸: All photos by Jennifer

For more information:

Starbucks Reserve – official website ☕️

This post is #2 of 6 in my Visiting Seattle series.

Taking a Load Off at Laundré in San Francisco

When I spotted Laundré in the Mission District in San Francisco, I was intrigued by the accent aigu (é) in its name.

A closer look at the large blue building located on the corner of 20th and Mission Streets revealed that Laundré is a portmanteau, or a made-up word using the combination of the words, “laundromat” and “café” to name the hybrid establishment.

However, it’s not the first to combine laundry and food and/or drink in the world, not even the first in San Francisco. A few years ago, BrainWash in San Francisco closed after having been open since 1989. In addition, there have been laundrobars in cities, like Asheville, North Carolina; New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and in Copenhagen, Reykjavik, Hamburg, Berlin, Antwerp, and Ghent.

minimalist menu

I had neither a caffeine craving nor a load of laundry to wash on the day I stumbled upon Laundré, but I decided to visit and take a load off. I admired the featured wall art created by a local artist and I ordered a cappuccino made with a third wave coffee by Sightglass Coffee. I also took a sip of my daughter’s lavender spritzer, which she thought tasted like soap. I figured it was in keeping with the laundromat theme! We later decided it was an acquired taste.

cappuccino and lavender spritzer

Overall, I like the concept: coffee shop on one side and a laundromat down the hall. Laundré’s founder reportedly set out to create a welcoming space for people to gather and to make laundry less of a chore.

However, I didn’t see people on the laundry side sipping a drink from the café while their clothes tumbled in the washers and dryers.

Conversely, the people sitting in the café didn’t appear to be waiting for any laundry. With their faces aglow with light from their MacBook screens, they seemed to be engrossed in their individual worlds.

As a Francophile, I was delighted to see a new business that seemed French-inspired. But it’s in the Mission District, a community of small businesses owned and operated by mostly immigrant families from Spanish-speaking or Asian countries, so something about it didn’t feel right to me.

In the 80s, I remember this area was filled mainly with various fruit stands, Mexican taquerías, Salvadoran pupuserías, shops selling formal wear, like quinceañera gowns; Chinese wholesale outlets, and stores providing money remittance services or Filipino balikbayan boxes.

They’re mostly still there, but it would’ve been nice to see Laundré acknowledge the community they’re in. For starters, they could have a small multilingual sign on the front doors. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

Visiting les Bouquinistes and Shakespeare and Company in Paris

I’m writing this while sitting on a stool near a typewriter on the second floor of Shakespeare and Company (in the poetry section). I want to remember the cat. I feel an immediate kinship with it. It’s a gray tabby, like my first cat, Amiee.* It turns out they call the cat, Aggie.** I must say, it is quieter here than at Notre Dame. The church bells are ringing. It’s noon and it’s calling all of us to come to mass.

Amid the melodic whispers in various languages are the sounds of footsteps of curious fellow visitors going up and down the worn and wooden steps.

I told myself that I wouldn’t romanticize this visit to S&Co, but as I sit on this stool, I do hope (wish?) inspiration comes to me. I’m going to write something on a page and then tape it to the mirror – seems to be a tradition.

That was an excerpt from my journal.

After visiting Notre Dame, I crossed the street and a couple of short turns later into an alley and courtyard, I arrived at the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore! Unfortunately, photography inside was not allowed. I wanted to ignore the signs, break the rules, and take lots of pictures so badly! But I didn’t, so I took notes instead.

Shakespeare and Company

In the early 1950’s, an American named George Whitman opened this independent English-language bookstore at its present location on 37 rue de la Bûcherie. He named it Shakespeare and Company after the original bookstore in Paris that another American expatriate, Sylvia Beach, had opened in the early 1920’s.

Several weeks before I arrived in Paris, I had come across an article in The Guardian written by best-selling author, Lauren Elkin, in which she describes her research and writing process for her latest book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. A flâneuse is basically the female version of a flâneur, a man who walks around observing society. As a woman who’d be traveling solo (and walking around a lot), I agreed wholeheartedly with two sentences in her article:

“…It takes a daunting amount of conviction to convert natural curiosity into willpower. To up and go is the boldest statement of self-preservation.” (Emphasis mine.)

Those lines should be on a motivational poster, if they weren’t already, I thought. I scribbled the quote in my travel journal and also added the title to my “books to read” list.

Well, imagine my surprise when I found a three-foot tall stack of the book^ in front of the cashier at Shakespeare and Company! Are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe it. What were the odds? I bought the book (14€) and when the cashier asked me if I’d like my book stamped, I said, “Yes, please!” (Of course! Bien sûr!)

the stamp serves as proof of purchase (and visit, too!)

I also picked up a mug (as my older daughter requested), tote bag, and postcard before visiting the Shakespeare and Company Café next door.


While I had a satisfying experience at the bookstore, my time at the café left much to be desired. I really wanted to love the café, but it was disappointing. For example, they spoke only English in the café (but we’re in France, n’est-ce pas?)

The pastry selection was paltry and uninspired (Pecan pie? Mexican wedding cookie?) I like those desserts, but I was expecting something…else.

Finally, I decided on a boring brownie and a cup of a so-so Americano. I sat by the window, which gave me a nice view of Notre Dame. While I sipped and nibbled, I thought about how I would answer each question on my placemat, aka the Kilometer Zero Proust Questionnaire.  (If you’re curious, my answers are here.)


I did like the porcelain plate, though

Les bouquinistes


One of my personal goals on this trip was not to rush through places. In the past, I had over-scheduled itineraries and didn’t account for unexpected moments or allow for varying traffic conditions. I remember feeling exhausted, frustrated, and unsuccessful because I felt like I hadn’t checked off all the boxes on my to-do list.

This time, however, I decided I would visit certain places, but at a more relaxed, go-with-the-flow pace. I gave myself the permission to linger as little or as long as I wanted. If something was on my list, I was open to adjust, if needed, and not feel bad about it. Besides, I could just add it to the itinerary for next time!

My experience visiting the bouquinistes, or booksellers, helped me with this goal because it was simply impossible to rush. I couldn’t see everything even if I tried, but I took my time browsing through various books, political posters, newspapers, and magazines. I was one happy bookworm!

As I inched along, I greeted each bookseller with a friendly “Bonjour” before taking a closer look at their treasures in those huge green boxes.


In the area in front of Notre Dame, a soft-spoken young woman asked me if she could help me find something. I asked if she had any works by Molière. (In college, I remember his plays, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme and Tartuffe, were required reading.)

She had two titles and I bought one of them for 3€. Now I don’t know if I’ll get around to reading it anytime soon, but I’m happy to add the book (still wrapped in cellophane) to my box of French class textbooks, which I started collecting when I was in college.

Later on, I stopped at a book stall that was selling mini padlocks. I wanted to take part in the tradition of attaching a so-called love lock on the bridge and throwing away the key in the Seine River to symbolize everlasting love.

Well, the bookseller told me that he could sell me the lock, but that I should be aware that they no longer allow them on the Pont des Arts and that I’d have to walk back one bridge over to Pont Neuf, where it was permitted. Good to know! It was getting hot so walking back was not an option. After all, I had a lot more Flâneuse-ing to do!

*The budding Francophile in me named my cat the French word for friend (“ami”) – creative spelling included!
**Well, isn’t that another wonderful coincidence, I thought. After all, we UC Davis grads are called Aggies.
^After I returned home and read the author’s bio on her website, I learned that Lauren Elkin currently curates and hosts an author series for Shakespeare and Company, so it makes sense to me (now!) that they would display her books prominently there. Between you and me, I’ll keep believing that finding her book was an instance of serendipity!