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A Toronto cafe is serving up an unseen coffee concept from Vietnam that uses egg to create a custardy, creamy coffee treat that you can eat with a spoon.
Egg coffee, or ca phe trung, is made with the mixture of egg yolks and condensed milk over Vietnamese espresso strong enough to keep postprandial torpor at bay. The whipped creamish fluff, sprinkled with cocoa powder, has the taste of tiramisu custard, and you can eat it with a desert spoon while gulping the air imbued with youth.
Located a little south of Bloor Street along Bay Street, the OATS Kafé had a rather hipster clientele who swagger in a k-pop air. They are mainly residents of the area, who happened upon the chic coffee shop, and it is because of these young people, said co-owner Jolie, that the OATS got to survive the hellish pandemic.
Talking about last year, Jolie wasn’t a tad bitter but thankful. The regulars, the emergency funds for small businesses, this and that, here and there, together had helped them fumble through a dark spell, and now they’re finally back on their feet.
“Before it was just the two of us, working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Jolie. “And now, we’re finally able to hire people, who’re young, like-minded, and love coffee as we do. We want to create a fair environment for everyone.”
The vibe and life in the clangor and bustle of the streets of Vietnam is the experience she and her partner, Louis, want to bring to the Toronto food scene.
"Back in Hanoi, you can find an independent coffee shop every few feet apart.”
Indeed, creativity with food stems from all the make-believes and make-dos that hardship inspires. The legendary egg coffee was invented by a talented barista named Giang back in the late 1940’s when fresh milk was as scarce as eggs were plentiful. After many attempts to create the perfect balance, Giang served his egg coffee to foreign customers in nearby hotels before starting his own place that still thrives in the heart of Hanoi today.
With the same tenacity and love of coffee, Jolie and Louis opened the OATS well over half a century later to serve not only the legendary ca phe trung, but other signature Vietnamese eats and drinks to Torontonians. Bac xiu, for example, is an ambrosial plan B if egg isn’t your thing. Made with espresso shots, milk and condensed milk, bac xiu comes in marvellous layers and marbleized once stirred––which you can only do with their paper straws. You can also have a bite of the authentic Banh Mi, made with fresh Vietnamese baguette and are friendly to the lactose-intolerant.