Phnom Penhois love their coffee. I donâ€™t love Phnom Penhois coffee but we have reached a mutually agreeable dÃ©tente. I sneak off to get my Illy espresso to assuage my crema fixation at a frankly ludicrous price or brew my own at home with my emergency macchinetta, and don’t unduly hassle the locals. My tastes are for thick, rich and Italian thanks to my inherited Melburnian coffee fetishism. While the local coffee is both eminently drinkable and well caffeinated, it isnâ€™t for what I pine. It is an issue of process rather than raw ingredient.
The Cambodian method could not be simpler. Boiled water is poured into a fine cloth sock containing a few hundred grams of finely ground beans, and the water and resulting coffee percolate into the purpose-made ceramic vessel below. From this master brew, there are four variations: hot or iced, with sweetened condensed/tinned milk or without. There is a marked preference for iced coffee with either sweetened condensed milk and/or for drinkers to add four to five teaspoons of sugar. This oversweetening is possibly to offset the general bitterness of the dark-roasted local beans and to cater to the indigenous preference for maximising calories per dollar.
Coffee brewed in the local manner can be found anywhere that you see one of those brown coffeepots and a string of the coffee socks hanging out to dry by their wire handle. Most small roadside breakfast vendors brew their own and larger chains such as T&Coffee World or the execrable Lucky 7 cater to Phnom Penhâ€™s more affluent crowd. The above coffee was from the corner of st.432 and 155, who also roast Cambodian coffee beans, and was notable for the degree of smoke flavour that their personal roasting style added to the brew. Not a trace of pork flavour.