A Day for Vietnamese Coffee
Enriching Community Culture with Coffee
A sun-drenched Sunday brought me to The Local Moose Café in Manchester with a late morning drive along the tree-lined highway from Massachusetts and a peak at their online menu to tempt my appetite. My destination was a place I’d read about before chatting with the friendly baker and barista, Natalia Umpierrez, whose husband Bo Tong co-owns the coffee shop with business partner Marc Lee. I’d also done my best to read up on Vietnamese coffee, a beverage being served at the café. It was, I would find, one of many unique and intriguing aspects of The Local Moose.
Vietnamese coffee or, Cà phê sua dá, can be served both iced and hot. Traditionally the brew is slow dripped in a Phin filter (similar to a French Press) using strong French Roast coffee and sweetened condensed milk. This distinct process is most likely explained by Vietnam’s lack of fresh milk during French Colonialism.
At The Local Moose, a double shot of A&E espresso sourced out of Amherst is poured over a heaping teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk. The decadent combination creates a layered effect inside the glass with the stark white of the milk on bottom, the deep, almost black color of espresso taking up most of the middle, and a thin layer of caramel colored foam on top. Once it’s stirred together the beverage becomes a rich, extremely satisfying experience.
As I tasted the coffee that Natalia brought over to me I tried to separate the individual flavors, my tongue slipping around words in the shape of strong, creamy, tangy, warm and sweet. Although a specific word could not rest there for long, the balance of all the flavors did, leaving my taste buds in a state of gluttonous bliss.
While visiting family in Vietnam in February of 2015, Natalia and Bo Tong indulged in the comfort of such a visit as well as Banh Mi sandwiches and, fittingly, much Vietnamese coffee. “We knew from the first sip of the rich and sweet beverage that we had to recreate it at The Local Moose Café,” says Natalia. They also offer the Banh Mi sandwich, a Vietnamese staple and innovative add to the menu. Along with other salivary items, the Banh Mi sandwich is detailed on the chalkboard at the front of the shop: a grilled pork patty, pickled root vegetables, cilantro, Sriracha mayo and honey ginger mayo, served on a French Baguette (which Bo bakes daily, along with the brioche buns).
TLM has not only mastered its food and drinks, but also their goal to “enrich the culture of the community with locally sourced foods and innovative drinks to support small businesses and local farms.” The café ensures the quality of all their ingredients by only serving what’s fresh, including a variety of gluten free, dairy free and vegan items. The staff has even provided three separate waste cubicles for compost, recycle and landfill items to honor their edict to preserve and sustain the environment.
A small living plant occupies each table at the café. While I sipped my Vietnamese coffee and waited for my Banh Mi, I discovered that it must be these plants drawing so much of the outdoor light in, with their sun-thirsty leaves and soft, delicate petals. It didn’t take long for me to realize that The Local Moose was shedding a similar light back, on the ingenuity and positive impact one small business can share with its community.