How can you discover something that has been around for nearly two centuries and is actually used widely to this day?
Last weekend, I discovered the answer to this question: dive into the nearest doorway when you are caught in a sudden afternoon shower.
So I ducked into this doorway and ended up in Tuno Coffee and discovered the siphon coffee maker that a German man named Loeff invented in the 1830s.
When I first stepped inside, the place did not make any special impression on me. It was a small coffee shop with around six tables, each of which could seat four people.
Having found refuse so quickly from the rain, I sank gratefully into a grey-purple sofa chair next to a wall-to-wall glass window and looked at the small alley outside from above. It was a cozy place with its dark walls on which some pictures of coffee were hung.
Like many other coffee shops, the menu had different kinds of coffee, Italian, American and Vietnamese. It also had iced tea, yogurt and ice-blended smoothies (with cream on top).
Then, on the last page of the menu, one item caught and held my attention - Siphon coffee. It carried a picture of some kind of equipment that looked like the ones used in a chemistry lab. Hmm"¦
I decided to spend VND70,000 on "Siphon coffee" for two. (The set for three-four people costs VND100,000).
The "˜Siphon coffee maker' in action
Firstly, the young woman placed on my table a tiny, alcohol-fired stove just like the ones I have seen in a school laboratory, and then brought the "Siphon" over. This device consists of a glass round pot with warm water inside. The pot is attached to a metal supporter which also used as a handle.
Then she brought out another glass pot, which contained coffee grounds. She turned it upside down and attached it to the first pot on its mouth. A tub ran down from the upper container, stopping short of touching the bottom of the lower pot.
When everything was set up, the waitress lit the stove under the pot containing water. When the water began boiling, vapor pressure increased in the lower pot, forcing the water inside to go upwards through the tube to the upper pot, where it is mixed with the coffee grounds. As this happened, the waitress gently stirred the coffee using a long spoon.
I observed the whole process like a child watching candy being made, with amazement and delight. How and why did someone think of doing this?
When there was no water left in the lower pot, the heat was removed, causing the water, which had then become liquid coffee, flow back down through the tube to the lower pot through a filter.
Finally, the waitress removed the upper pot and poured the coffee into a small cup. Next to the cup were some small packs of sugar. I also ordered some fresh milk.
I don't know if my fascination with the whole process of making it had some psychosomatic impact, but the coffee tasted really good, and I was completely satisfied.
Then I learnt that the shop also offered Turkish coffee for VND150,000 per set for around three people. A recent introduction, it has yet to appear on the Tuno menu.
Coffee served Turkish style
In for a penny, in for a pound, I thought. Bring it on, I told the smiling waitress, who seemed to take pleasure in facilitating my voyage of discovery.
Coffee, Turkish style, is made at the table as well, using a metal container which looks like a large cup with a long wooden handle.
The cups, the plates, and the spoons are all made of metal. Carved on their surfaces are Turkish decorations.
One special thing about this coffee is that people do not filter the liquid coffee from the coffee residue. Also, they take the foam from the boiling coffee and pour into the cup first, followed by the liquid with some coffee grounds. With each sip, I could clearly feel the coffee grounds on my tongue.
The Turkish coffee at Tuno tasted better than its siphon counterpart, I felt. It was stronger and more fragrant.
28/2A Ton That Tung Street,
8A/1C1 Thai Van Lung Street,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
As I sipped the coffee, the thought struck me that I could have fretted and fumed about the rain catching me by surprise and putting me off whatever it is that I was planning to do.
Instead, here I was, relaxed, enjoying a drink that I had discovered made in totally new ways.
There must be a moral in it somewhere, but I might as well wait for another rainy day to discover it.
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