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Nanyang Coffee: What Is It and How to Make It

Some mornings call for an all-out, decadent latte with fancy chocolate curls and whipped cream. But other mornings find you craving a simple, back-to-basics cup of java.

Why not try Nanyang coffee for those mornings when the bare necessities are all you need? Here’s a guide on what it is and how to make it.

Roasting Kopi coffee

What Is Nanyang Coffee?

Nanyang coffee, or 南洋咖啡 in Chinese, refers to the traditional black coffee served in many parts of Singapore and Malaysia.

More specifically, Nanyang, transliterated as “southern sea”, refers to the Chinese provinces and countries around the coast of the South China Sea. In short, this area spans the province of Yunnan and the countries of Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, the eastern part of Malaysia, and the Philippines.

If you want to expand your palate, skim through our huge list of coffee drinks from around the world.

A Little Nanyan Coffee History

As with our Vietnamese coffee, Malaysian Ipoh white coffee, and kopi sanger recipe, this Nanyang coffee was created to suit the southeast Asian palate and culture.

The myth goes that while schmoozing with influential Western businessmen, Malaysian and Singaporean people had to drink Western coffee. Finding it too bitter, they decided to create their version of this coffee. The result was a uniquely southeastern Asian creation of double-roasted Robusta and Liberica coffee beans, some oil, sugar, and salt.

Making traditional kopi is a labour of love. Watch a mini-documentary below for an inside look at the hours of hard work that go into making Malaysian kopi.

Nanyang Kopi Recipe

If you want to try making Nanyang coffee at home, what’s the secret? First and foremost, you’ll need a good coffee grinder. According to Tanya Nanetti over at Barista Magazine (1):

…a great grinder will make even “just OK” machines perform incredibly well.

A great coffee grinder ensures all the coffee grounds in the coffee bed are uniform in size. A good, uniform grind is key to a great cup of coffee because it guarantees even extraction.

So, after you’ve got yourself a great coffee grinder, simply grind some high-quality robusta coffee beans to a medium-fine grind and brew your Nanyang coffee with a Vietnamese phin.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 2 tablespoons of coffee
  • Boiled water
  • Condensed milk (bought or home-made)
  • 475 ml ounces of whole milk
  • ¾-cup maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

AT A GLANCE

Time:

10 min + 20 min for the condensed milk

Yields:

1 cup

What Is a Vietnamese Phin?

A Vietnamese phin is a drip coffee maker that’s very popular in southeast Asian countries like Vietnam. They make it with a perforated basket, the brew chamber, the perforated lid, and the coffee press.

The coffee brewed with this method is bold and dark.

Add-ins, like sweetened condensed milk and cream, give your Nanyang coffee its characteristic syrupy mouthfeel.

How To Make Nanyang Coffee

Now, let’s proceed to the step-by-step guide on how to make Nanyang Kopi.

1. Measure your coffee

Measure two tablespoons of medium-fine grind robusta coffee into the phin’s brew chamber.

2. Place your coffee to the coffee bed

Gently place the flat coffee press over your coffee bed, and resist the urge to tamp whatever you do. The coffee bed needs to be loose enough to allow the water to drip through.

3. Pour the water

Pour in 90-degree water until it reaches just half an inch above the coffee press. Allow 30 seconds for your coffee to bloom.

4. Use the rest of the water

Pour the rest of the 90-degree water over your coffee press until it reaches the top of your phin. From here, it’s just waiting for your coffee to drip through. According to Nguyen Coffee Supply, you’re looking for the first drip to fall into your cup before the two-minute mark, and the last drip should happen at the five-minute mark (2).

5. Add the condensed milk

After you’ve brewed your coffee, you can add some sweetened condensed milk for that trademark syrupy texture. And while you could buy it at the store, here’s a bonus recipe for homemade sweetened condensed milk.

How to make home-made condensed milk?

You can also make your own homemade condensed milk in two simple steps.

1. Condense Your Milk

In a small saucepan, combine 475 ml of whole milk and ¾-cup of maple syrup and bring to a simmer on medium-low. Then, keep whisking until your milk and syrup mixture has been reduced by half.

2. Add in Butter and Extract

Once your mixture has been reduced by half, remove it from the stove. Then, add two tablespoons of ghee or clarified butter and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Lastly, whisk, making sure that all your ingredients are well incorporated.

Pro Tip:  Use this as a base for all your condensed milk recipes. While this recipe calls for vanilla extract, feel free to vary your extract to create different flavour profiles. For example, why not give your Nanyang coffee a hint of nuttiness with a teaspoon of almond extract (3)?

Final Thoughts

Nanyang coffee is a great way to bring the southeastern Asian coffee tradition into your morning coffee routine. Whether you sweeten it with condensed milk or drink it as is, this bold Malaysian coffee is sure to complement any muffin or afternoon coffee cake.

If you made this Nanyang coffee, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

FAQs

Nanyang coffee is the plain, black coffee base brewed in the Vietnamese phin. Kopi sanger is Nanyang coffee with the addition of ghee, sugar, and sweetened condensed milk.

Nanyang coffee is brewed in the phin, while Ipoh white coffee is made with the addition of brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk. The key difference in all these drinks—Nanyang coffee, Ipoh white coffee, and kopi sanger—lies in double-roasted Robusta or Liberica coffee beans, sugar, and ghee.

To make dairy-free, sweetened condensed milk, replace the 475 ml of whole milk in the above recipe with a dairy-free alternative. Depending on what you like, you can use almond milk, soy, oat, or coconut milk.

  1. Barista Magazine. (2022, January 4). An Ideal Home Coffee Setup With Drago Tomianovic. Barista Magazine Online. https://www.baristamagazine.com/an-ideal-home-coffee-setup-with-drago-tomianovic/
  2. Nguyen, S. (2019, September 25). What is a Vietnamese Phin Filter? (And How to Use It). Nguyen Coffee Supply | Official Store; Nguyen Coffee Supply | Official Store. https://nguyencoffeesupply.com/blogs/news/vietnamese-coffee-phin-filter-stainless-steel
  3. Clark, J. (2018, October). A Guide to Extracts: Where to Buy Them and How to Use Them. The Best Cake Recipes. https://thebestcakerecipes.com/a-guide-to-extracts/
Iris M. Pang
One of my first childhood memories of coffee was in Montreal, Quebec. Every time my family and I walked through the mall, the aroma of fresh, brewed coffee and Belgian waffles permeated all the stores. Whatever that delicious smell was, I had to have it. And the rest is history. When I'm not writing or touring local coffee shops, you'll find me on social media, trying out different ethnic cuisine at local restaurants, and having deep discussions over coffee and pastries.

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