Iced Coffee Around the World

Much like cultures around the world have put their spin on espresso drinks, so too have they found their own way to prepare coffee with ice. It’s just one more way coffee cements its status as a truly global beverage.

Where did iced coffee originate? In truth, it’s a question with no satisfying answer, but common thought is that it began with a French drink called “Mazagran” that was made with espresso, lemon, and ice. That said, it’s also a beverage that’s much more popular in Asian countries, meaning it’s entirely possible that Asian cultures adopted the iced beverage sooner than we realized.

Here are just a few of the ways iced coffee is prepared around the world.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese iced coffee is notable for its use of condensed milk, which makes for a sweeter iced coffee. It usually calls for a dark, Robusta coffee ground somewhere between coarse and fine. It’s made using a metal filter and has its own press for making it. Because Vietnam is a major producer of the Robusta variety of coffee, which is notoriously bitter, it’s likely this iced coffee type was created to offset that flavor with the condensed milk’s sweet and creamy flavor.

How to make Vietnamese iced coffee:

  • Start with 2 tablespoons of condensed milk in a glass that will withstand high temperatures.
  • Add coffee to a heat proof container with a metal filter, or, as is recommended, use a Vietnamese coffee press. Bloom the grounds with a surface layer of hot water.
  • Secure the device onto the glass.
  • Place the maker on top of the glass and slowly pour boiling water over the grounds. Seal the brewer with its lid. Wait three minutes.
  • Stir mixture of milk and coffee. Then pour over a cup of ice.
  • Enjoy the delicious Vietnamese iced coffee recipe!

Japanese Iced Coffee

Sometimes called “flash brew,” Japanese iced coffee is different because it’s brewed right over the ice. Think of it like a pour over but for iced coffee. Because the coffee is still extracted in hot water, it retains all of the coffee’s flavors and has no time to deteriorate before being chilled. The result is a more tea-like coffee that draws out fruity and bright notes in a coffee. For this reason, it’s better to use a light roast and a finger grind. Some even describe the iced coffee as being floral, though it depends on the coffee used.

This is a mild and refreshing iced coffee option that tends to be better without added milk and sugar. Japanese coffee drinkers have been consuming it since the 1920s.

How to brew it, meanwhile, is deliciously simple: brew in a pourover device as you would normally, only reduce the amount of hot brewing water by about one-third to half, and instead take that quantity of water and put it in ice form beneath the brewer. Voila!

Thai Iced Coffee

What is Thai iced coffee? It is not all that dissimilar to Vietnamese iced coffee. Instead, it’s made using a very strong black coffee that is quickly cooled and served over ice with sugar, heavy cream, and cardamom. (Some also use condensed milk, like with Vietnamese iced coffee.)

This type of coffee is known as “Oliang,” a word of Chinese origin; the “O” signifies “Black,” while “liang” means “cold.” It’s also sometimes referred to as “coffee yen” in Thailand.

A simple Thai iced coffee recipe:

  • To be more traditional, use a Hario pour over coffee maker and use a sock filter instead of a paper filter. It’s advised to wash the sock between uses, but some Thai coffee brewers claim the oils retained in the sock add to the flavor of the coffee.
  • Treat the coffee-brewing method much like a pourover, if using the sock method. Otherwise, brew as you normally would and use a medium-ground coffee that is a dark roast. A medium roast is acceptable.
  • Let the coffee cool.
  • Pour the coffee into a to-taste mixture of heavy cream and simple syrup with a dash of cardamom. Stir. Optional: top off the mixture with more cream or use whipped cream.
  • Enjoy!

American Iced Coffee

While Americans have primarily adopted different iced coffees from around the world (and is only popular as of the past two decades), the most U.S.-native recipe comes from New Orleans. The iced coffee is different because of the use of chicory—and the use of a stockpot. It was intended as an alternative to a latte, because of its sweetness and thickness.

How to make this American iced coffee recipe:

  • Grind a medium or dark roast coffee to be coarse. You’ll need 340 grams of coffee; this recipe makes a batch of coffee concentrate.
  • Add 28 grams of roasted chicory to a stockpot. Then add 2 liters of filtered water and stir.
  • Let the mixture steep for 12 hours. Do not refrigerate.
  • Use a cheesecloth sleeve, as you would for making cold brew, to filter out the thick concentrate.
  • Add simple syrup to taste. Start with 3 tablespoons and increase from there.
  • Pour equal parts coffee concentrate and milk into a glass of ice. Stir. This concentrate, which should be refrigerated, will be at its best in its first couple of days, and can last up to a week if stored properly.

Iced coffee can be prepared in a number of ways — all of which are enjoyable. Depending on your palette, each one has its own unique appeal. Give some of these methods a try on your own and savor an iced cold cup of coffee.