Laos Coffee

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Laos is a former French colony, and like its neighbour Vietnam it has an interesting French legacy that is still visible in modern (although this word doesn't describe Laos at all, perhaps current-day?) Laos. During their administrative control of Laos, the French introduced coffee farming on the fertile Bolaven Plateau, to the south of Laos. The plateau is at altitude, with a micro-climate perfect for arabica bean production. Coffee is extremely important to the Lao economy, and although coffee exports have only recently taken off in recent years it is already regarded as one of the world's finest, and commands prices second only to Blue Mountain coffee. However, to buy this coffee in Laos, one kilo is just 10000 kip (USD 1.50, GBP 0.80)!!
The coffee is made using a muslin bag (lots of coffee in the bag and water poured over the top) and is usually served with condensed milk. Many will turn their noses up at the thought, but it is really quite sublime. The coffee grind is both very fine and quite coarse, which means that much of the finely ground coffee is dissolved in the water, resulting in a smooth velvety mouth-feel, accentuated by the thickness of the condensed milk. As you are consuming some of the particulate as well, it gives you quite a kick. The coffee has a unique aroma, almost chocolately, and is quite divine.
The Lao people tend to live a very tradtional way, not far removed to how life must have been one hundred years ago, but coffee has become such an important part of their culture, everyone seems to drink this amazing brew, even if it is accompanied by sticky rice. But more often than not, they will have their coffee with a freshly baked baguette, dipped in the coffee as you do in France. Great to see this hint of French culture in such an undeveloped country. Also interesting is the number of old people who speak flawless French. One time we passed an old guy on the road who was wearing ragged shorts and nothing else, and dragging some building materials, and he started speaking to us in perfect French (confirmed by my friend who was French). Being able to communicate in French was fantastic, as few people could understand English, and we were able to meet and talk to people that many other travellers would have no contact with.
Lao Coffee - worth travelling to Laos for. And bring a couple of kilos for me while you're at it.

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