As avid traveler Jane Villa found out, how a nation makes their coffee is a window into their culture.
Food & Drink Features

From dallah to cezveh, this coffee equipment collection is a celebration of cultures

Coffee is a way to extend travels and have an appreciation of other people’s customs, so says self-described non-sophisticate Jane Villa. After every trip, she has brought back a piece of her destination with her, translating to many happy cups at home.
Jane Villa | Aug 28 2019

Ever tried sipping a shot of concentrated slow-drip iced coffee, just like you would a whiskey? I am finding it to be a most enjoyable way to take coffee during these warm, summer-like days. Every sip reveals subtle changes in flavor as the ice slowly melts. These flavors will depend on the type of coffee you use, whether it’s Arabica, Robusta, or Liberica, imported or locally sourced, blended or single origin. 

More on coffee experts:

I make slow-drip iced coffee with my newest toy, a Kyoto or Dutch-style iced coffee dripper. The contraption uses iced water to drip through coffee grounds at a rate of 1 drop per 2 seconds, resulting in a syrupy liquid concentrate that you can use for a variety of drinks. Currently, I follow a recipe of 1:10 Sagada medium roast coffee grounds to iced filtered water ratio for my sipping coffee.

In our clan, I have been assigned the role of default coffee barista, because I am the only one with the patience to wait eight hours to brew a batch of slow-drip iced coffee, or follow the science and math rules of temperatures and timing and ratio. It is a role I am happy to accept because I love it.

Kyoto-Style Slow Drip Coffee Brewer

Concocting different kinds of coffee drinks using a variety of equipment at home is one of my simple joys. The process itself is soothing and relaxing because coffee brewing is just a science experiment that can be replicated, with predictable outcomes in every single brew. The ritual itself is as satisfying as the end product: grinding the coffee beans by hand, boiling the water, measuring them by weight, ensuring proper grind-size and ratios, and waiting for the brew to finish. It is perfect for giving me a semblance of full control of the world. In the 15 to 20 minutes it takes to brew a cup, I get to stop the world and get off, and find my zen.

 

The non-connoisseur

It might seem maarte, especially since I am not a coffee connoisseur or sophisticate. I did not study coffee cupping and I can not identify those citrus notes with hints of chocolate and berries or whatever. However, almost 20 years of drinking coffee every day has made me develop some level of personal standards. Also, after a while, I’ve grown tired of dictating my personal preferences to others, and I just want to avoid the judgmental "why-must-you-bespoke-everything" look from my friends. But I just want to learn how to make my own cup of joe the way I like it.

Homemade kohikori.

My family and our friends seem to enjoy it if I am the one brewing the coffee, and I do enjoy serving good coffee to them during Sunday lunch. I always ask for a headcount so that I brew only the exact amount and there are no wastage.

I think it’s a sin to waste coffee and I would even consider it rude to my host if I went to a home, requested coffee, and did not drink it. It’s interesting that other cultures hold coffee as a symbol of hospitality as well. I read that for the Bedouins, for instance, coffee plays an important part of their life.

Arabic dallah

I learned a bit about them during my visit to the holy lands of Egypt, Israel, and Jordan last April. Bedouins are a nomadic people and some of them still inhabit the deserts surrounding the three countries. I was curious about the coffee infused with cardamom that was served in our hotels and in some of our destinations.

I only bought one single item for myself from that trip, and that is a dallah. It is an Arabic coffee pot traditionally made of brass, used by the Bedouins to brew and serve coffee. When I got back to Manila, I ground a couple of cardamom pods, I keep some at home for my gin and tonic, with coffee beans and made a batch of Bedouin-style coffee for my family. In a way, coffee is also how I extend my travels and have an appreciation of the customs of other peoples.

Vietnamese phin filter

Culture collection

Over the years, I have accumulated collected different coffee brewers from my travels. For practical purposes, they are all manual. This means they do not use electricity, because they are simpler to operate, there are less tricky parts, and they are easier to clean. 

I have four Vietnamese phin coffee filters. Three, I bought from my trip to Ho Chi Minh a couple of years ago and the other one was a gift. I can not get rid of any of them! I use them to make Vietnamese-style hot or iced coffee with condensed milk. I also have Singaporean kopi socks, used to make kopi-c or kopi-o, but since the result is quite similar, I tend to use the phin filters for my kopi. I use this to recreate a traditional kopitiam breakfast with soft-boiled eggs and toast with kaya jam and butter.

Vietnamese iced coffee using phin filter

I consider this cheating, because I have not been to Turkey, but I own a cezve, a traditional Turkish coffee pot. I asked my friend to buy this for me when she was stationed there. I have not yet attempted to make Turkish coffee with it and I have only used it to heat milk. 

The last set of manual coffee makers I own is the French press, the Japanese pour-over filters, and the Clever Dripper. I group them together because these brewers describe my coffee preference journey.

Clever dripper

The French press is my gateway to home brewing. It is one of the easiest ways to make good coffee. You just fill the pot with coffee grounds, pour hot water, wait four minutes, and press the plunger. I still have it at home, but these days I use the carafe as a coffee brew mug rather than as a brewer. This is because I don’t like the silt or muddy residue anymore.

Eventually, I graduated to the Japanese pour-over filters. They create a clean, bright cup of coffee. However, because I am a cheapo, I only got the Daiso plastic version with the three holes rather than invest in a ceramic and pricier Hario V60. I have tasted coffee made from both and honestly, I can’t tell the difference between the two. I also found a vintage, unused Zojirushi brand pour-over filter with a one-liter thermal carafe set at the flea market connecting Shangri-la MRT station and Shangri-la Plaza. It cost around PHP 250, so, of course, I bought it. I use this on weekends when they day is slower and I can spend more time in the morning brewing coffee for my parents. 

Zojirushi pour-over dripper.

For my daily morning coffee needs I use the clever dripper. It correctly claims to be a hybrid between the easy to use French press and the clean-brew of a pour-over filter. I bring this to my trips, too. Admittedly it’s on the bulky side, and the size is not travel-friendly, but, the pour-over is too tedious; the French press is made of breakable glass, and the phin filter is good for only one person. I have been to enough trips to know that I am deathly afraid of waking up to a place without access to good coffee, so I always bring a brewer with me to be safe. By far, the clever dripper is my best option to bring so that I can share a good cup of coffee with my travelmates.

I suppose Marie Kondo will not be happy with my hoarding situation. But what can I do, I touch them one by one and they all spark joy!