Coffee, Culture, & Growing Pains

Coffee, Culture, & Growing Pains

I reached out to an avid member and collector in the EDC world and asked if he wouldn't mind writing a guest post for y'all! Thanks Dibs! Hope you enjoy his journey in coffee!

I am a Vietnamese-American with parents that immigrated during the Vietnam War. They went to a local church at night to learn English and worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. My father at one time worked three different jobs in one day, so I grew up mainly in various babysitters’ homes. One of the craziest babysitting grannies taught me the world of playing a Chinese Four Color Card game (that I cannot remember anymore), the back of multiple ladles, and Vietnamese coffee, aka Cà Phê Sữa Đá.This was around the time that I was three or four, as I was yet enrolled into any Pre-Kindergarten education. I won’t judge, but I’m sure giving caffeine to a toddler doesn’t end up in a good situation. A few spanks later from being hyperactive, and I’m hooked on this super strong, super thick concoction. 

This is coffee to me. There’s something fun about watching a glass cup with tons of tasty condensed milk slowly get filled with extra strong coffee in a metal filter dripping down. This is the only coffee in our house also, made on weekends as the parents tried to recover and relax from a stressful work week. At least, that’s how I viewed coffee until high school. High school brought about the hype train known as “Starbucks with your friends”. I didn’t know the lingo to use at a coffee shop, and I didn’t even know what the difference between an Americano and a regular coffee was. I jumped onto my cousin’s order, and started my first Starbucks experience with a triple grande white mocha, whatever that means. It was sweet and strong, milky and easy to down. This wasn’t a Cà Phê Sữa Đá, but there’s a bunch of Starbucks around and not enough Vietnamese restaurants to order from! Eventually I decided to branch off from that drink and find out more about this coffee culture, and it was a whole world of hurt awaiting me.

My first choice in branching out from that white mocha was to get a normal iced coffee, with milk added at the recommendation of the barista. This sounds like it’d be exactly the same as Vietnamese iced coffee, right? Upon receiving my order, I’m boggled. It’s what I ordered, and yet not what I was expecting. Allow me to break this down for you: Cà Phê(coffee) + Sữa(milk) + Đá(ice) = iced coffee with (condensed) milk. I take a sip, and I’m shocked at how bland this coffee is! It’s creamy but not strong at all; how is there such a difference between that white mocha and this? This is an abomination of a drink, and yet seems to be one of the more popular items to be ordered. Feeling a bit indignant, I go down the path of coffee to understand what all those words mean on that menu, so I’m not scammed again. The coffee I have grown up with is not the same as the coffee that most of the world is used to. I find out that a typical brewed coffee has a lot more water, and that my Vietnamese drip coffee is more similar in intensity to a long shot of espresso, and milk refers to regular milk, such as 2%, and not the condensed milk. Mistakes have been made, but a new world has opened in front of me. 

Nowadays, I generally drink an iced black when I’m alone, but will pull out a French press with company. I am but one person, and there’s a whole world of coffee drinkers out there with their own styles. These differences should be embraced and you might find a new favorite. A good brew deserves a great conversation, so let’s pour a cup and have some fun.

Stay Caffeinated,



Thanks Dibs, hope you all enjoyed this read. If you'd like to be a guest writer for The Roast, reach out to me and let's hear your coffee story!

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