Updated: Sep 5, 2020
Do you like coffee? Do you look for specialty or unique coffees when you travel to other places? Well, that is something I always do. Aside from sightseeing and experiencing local cultures when travelling, I like to hunt for local food too, which include local coffees and also special coffees.
Below is a list of special coffees with some additives from my travels that I would like to share. These are coffees that can be found in cafes and restaurants in Asia, not in instant coffee sachets from the shelves of supermarkets. There is a tonne of things that can be added to instant coffees, but that doesn't make it any exciting when travelling.
By the way, I am not referring to sugar, milk and ice as additives. Given a choice, I would rather not have them in my coffees, but milk is often used as "softener" when mixing strong coffee with strong-flavour additives. Also, apart from adding flavour to coffees, most additives act as sweeteners to replace the empty-calories sugar. Lastly, I never like ices in my coffee, they will dilute the coffee as they melt.
1. Caramel Cappuccino
It is common for baristas to add a trace of caramel on top of cappuccino to decorate it as well as adding flavour and sweetness to the espresso-based coffee. But in a cup of caramel cappuccino, the coffee is brewed with the caramel mixed in, not laced separately on the foamy layer. This gives the cappuccino a more uniform taste without having to stir the foam into the espresso before sipping.
Where I tried? Just Want Coffee, Blk 1 Everton Park, #01-27, Singapore.
2. Cappuccino with Cinnamon
Some cappuccinos are served with cinnamon sticks as stirrers and for its flavour. It is not something rare but not very common as well. If the cinnamon stick is soaked in the coffee for too long, the strong flavour may overpower the espresso — the taste of the cinnamon gets stronger with every sip of the coffee. Adding cinnamon powder is a better choice as the amount can be controlled to avoid inconsistency in taste.
Where I first tried? Hualien, Taiwan. I made my own from then onwards.
3. Affogato (Espresso with Ice-cream)
Affogato is an Italian coffee-based dessert, but is Greek to many people. Unless a photo of an affogato is included in the menu, most people will just stare at the word and scratch their heads. I was one of them until I saw a photo of the coffee-dessert in a cafe in Chiangmai, Thailand. That was when I ordered my first affogato, just 7 years ago.
Affogato is usually served with a shot of hot espresso and one or two scoops of vanilla ice-cream — either separately or together. Many cafes or restaurants will vary the flavour of the ice-cream or use gelato instead.
Where I first tried? Changmai, Thailand.
4. Yuen-Yeung (Coffee with Tea)
"Yuen-yeung" (or 鸳鸯 in Chinese) means Mandarin duck, which are usually in pairs.
In terms of beverage, yuen-yeung refers to coffee added with milk tea — the two most favourite beverages. The coffee can be either espresso or local coffee. The tea is usually Ceylon tea, but some cafes may use Earl Grey for additional flavour. The beverage originates from Hong Kong and is popular in Singapore and Malaysia too.
When you can't decide whether to have coffee or milk tea, go for a cup of yuen-yeung to have the best of both worlds.
Where I tried? Toast Box, Singapore.
5. Kopi Halia (Coffee with Ginger)
For a very long time, Indian-Muslims communities in Singapore and Malaysia have been serving teh halia (teh tarik, or "pulled milk tea", with ginger) but not kopi halia until recent years. The kopi (coffee) is "pulled" with condensed milk and ginger water by pouring the mixture back and forth between two vessels, resulting in a frothy layer on top. You can even try a kopi-o halia (or "halia-o") without the milk to get some kicks from the strong black coffee and ginger.
In Indonesia, the beverage is known as kopi jahe (pronounced as "jar-hey").
Where I tried? Arab Street, Singapore.
6. Gula Melaka Coffee (Coffee with Palm Sugar)
Gula Melaka coffee can be cappuccino or local coffee added with gula Melaka (palm sugar produced in the state of Malacca). The palm sugar will give the coffee a tint of coconut flavour along with a little sweetness. Natural palm sugar is also healthier than processed white sugar.
Photo? See 7.
7. Curacao Coffee
Curacao is a liqueur flavoured with the dried peel of a type of citrus fruit known as Laraha, similar to orange. Curacao coffee is prepared by adding a little of the liqueur to caffe latte. It has a slight scent of the dried orange skin above the aroma of the coffee.
The red cup is the gula Melaka coffee and the yellow one is curacao coffee. Anyway, it's the tastes that matter, not their appearance.
Where I tried both? The Stolen Cup in Malacca, Malaysia.
8. Coffee with Butter
No, I don't mean adding butter to coffee beans during the roasting process. The black local coffee is served with butter added on top. This is a traditional way of consuming coffee in Malaysia and Singapore in the old days. Big Bowl Ramen, a restaurant in Ipoh, is still preserving this traditional cup of joy.