A cup that’s been foaming at the mouth for decades

By Phong Vinh   March 8, 2019 | 05:17 am PT
A coffee with foam so thick it cannot be poured out has been going strong for years in Vinh Market.

At a time when there were no coffee machines around, a couple in Nghe An succeeded in creating a delicious frothy coffee.

To reach Long’s café, one must navigate a maze of market aisles lined with stores selling a range of iron and stainless steel goods.

The café, deep inside Vinh Market in Vinh City, central Nghe An Province, opened more than 20 years ago with nothing to go on but the owner’s passion for coffee.

Long, 58, recalled: "I just decided to sell coffee after returning home from army service in 1992."

Long at his café in Vinh Market. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

Long at his café in Vinh Market. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

Frothy coffee is relatively new trend in Vietnam, with social media beginning to show how it can be made just a few years ago. But Long had mastered this art much earlier.

Long says coffee was a popular morning drink even 20 years ago. His small stall mainly serves fellow market vendors in Vinh Market. Thanks to its unique, rich flavor, many tourists have also begun visiting his stall over the past few years.

Determined not to share his foam-making secret, Long hides all the tools he uses to make his coffee. He places all the ingredients in a glass and quickly stirs them using an egg whipper, breaking the quiet of the market at 6 a.m.

Minutes later, he holds up a frothy, creamy, and condensed coffee in a glass. The foam is so thick that when you turn the glass upside down, the beverage seems to defy gravity.

"Creating the foam so that it’s tight and sticks together without dropping outside the cup is the right way," Long said, adding that he only makes this coffee on request.

He sets out long rows of glasses in front of him. Slowly and meticulously, he pours pure coffee into them, keeping the amount equal with long practice.

Before this is done, depending on customer requests, sugar and/or milk is added to the glass. Crushed ice is next and a layer of foam is the final stage.

Long’s delicious creation takes two minutes. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

Long’s delicious creation takes two minutes. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

In addition to the characteristic bitter taste, the frothy coffee also has a distinctive aroma. Black or milk coffee here is sold for VND10,000 ($0.43) a glass.

Standing beside Long for many years is his wife Ly, 53, who also goes by her first name. Their shop is named Long Ly. She serves the customers and manages takeaways.

Some customers have to drink 2 cups here to feel ready to start a new day. Binh, in his 50s, a regular customer for over 10 years, said that when he first drank Long Ly’s coffee, he was not impressed.

"I slowly got used to the taste, and then I became addicted to it. Every day, I drive to the market to drink this frothy coffee. Only then am I ready for work," Binh said.

Ly is bringing coffee to fellow marketers. Photo by Phong Vinh.

Ly delivers coffee to fellow vendors. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

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