Creating a caffeinated kaleidoscope
FATHER-of-two Brian Hockenhull gave up a career in accounting and IT to share his passion for great, affordable coffee. He shares with us his top coffee of the month: Trung Nguyen Sang Tao #1 DEEP in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, Dak Lak Province is the gateway to a mysterious, captivating area, complete with waterfalls, wild elephants and local tribes.
Trung Nguyen, which is based there, is Vietnam’s most successful coffee company.
It introduced modern coffee franchises to the country in the late 1990s, with an astounding 1,000 cafes open across south east Asia today and plans to introduce a further 1,000 into Europe over the next few years.
Trung Nguyen is an international company with a clear mission – to couple sustainable coffee production with creative new products and flavours.
Travellers returning from the region often remember their Trung Nguyen cafe experience and long to recreate it.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of coffee – Arabica, which can only be cultivated in the tropics and is highly regarded, with more than 60 per cent of coffee cultivated worldwide being this type, and robusta, which can be cultivated further afield and is generally seen as lower quality.
Robusta coffees tend to be bitter and have less flavour than arabica coffees, however there are some very high quality robusta beans around, some used in traditional Italian espresso, and Vietnam has its own unique heirloom robusta coffees.
Sang Tao (Creation) #1 is one of these – the Vietnamese pioneered and perfected the robusta variety more than 100 years ago.
This coffee is raised in a perfect climate, picked in multiple sessions, and sun-dried for up to 100 days to achieve the full ripeness and wonderful tones that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
Because of the limited access to fresh milk, the French in Vietnam, who loved their café au lait, used sweetened condensed milk to lighten up their steaming mugs.
Sang Tao #1 fills the room with the aroma of superior coffee and a distinct toastiness from the roast adds deep chocolate notes to the elixir, which originates from the long ripening process.
It’s hard to brew this coffee too strong, as it has few faults, but it does have about 40pc more caffeine than arabica coffees.
It’s dark, strong, full-bodied smokey and bittersweet, and can stand up to plenty of milk and sugar. The base coffee can be brewed as a filter coffee or even a simple press pot with condensed milk added to your taste.
For dramatic effect, serve it in a clear glass mug – the resulting caffeinated kaleidoscope can be as hypnotic as it is delicious, great for something different after dinner.
Vietnamese coffee is also an excellent choice for iced coffee.
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Brian Hockenhull roasting coffee beans at his coffee shop