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Cafe Society: Coffee in the time of quarantine

As soon as Phuket announced the island-wide lockdown, I started to wonder what I was going to do for my daily coffee fix. While I have a simple coffee pot, and always keep ground beans in my fridge, I often prefer grabbing a cup from a local neighborhood spot. So, in the spirit of both isolation and boredom, I began to search for “quarantine trends” on social media. Of course, there was baking sourdough, tales of how the social media app TikTok became a phenomenon, and then randomly I found what I was looking for… coffee!

By Amy Bensema

Sunday 26 April 2020, 01:00PM

The Dalgona challenge: Can you get your Dalgona as sweet and frothy as this? Photo: Amy Bensema

The Dalgona challenge: Can you get your Dalgona as sweet and frothy as this? Photo: Amy Bensema

While the world shifted and began to shelter-in-place, a frothy, four-ingredient coffee that originated in South Korea quickly became the rising star of the internet. Every time I browsed Instagram, there was a new video of Dalgona coffee that had gone viral. 

What exactly is Dalgona coffee? Named for an old-fashioned Korean sugar candy, the fluffy drink consists of instant coffee, sugar, milk and hot water, which I presume most people have in their homes already. The ingredients need to be vigorously mixed together until the froth becomes super fluffy and aerated. If done right, Dalgona coffee features a coffee-flavoured mousse confection served over iced milk, a truly sweet and creamy treat. 

The South Korea coffee trend is picture perfect on Instagram. A lovely light brown and white concoction that is perfectly whipped, appears sweet and refreshing in addition to being the darling of photographs. Additionally, the recipe looks very simple:

  1. Mix equal parts instant coffee, sugar and hot water until the liquid turns into a fluffy whip. If you don’t have a hand mixer, it is possible to use a whisk or a fork.
  2. Add to a glass of milk with a few ice cubes, and it’s done! 

The drink looks deceptively easy to make – the recipe appears to be quick and fun. However, if I am going to be honest, the coffee drink doesn’t come together in a matter of seconds. In fact, it takes about 30 minutes to get Dalgona coffee just right.


I failed, and let me tell you, failed miserably the morning I attempted to make Dalgona coffee. I remember thinking to myself, how hard can it be? With my newly resurrected culinary skills since the island-wide lockdown, I was sure I could whip this coffee up in no time. Well, I am not ashamed to admit that I was wrong. However, instead of relaying my failures, I would like to share a bit of a knowledge with you.

There are many great Dalgona coffee tutorials on YouTube. All you have to do is search. The tutorials are thorough and well worth watching if you are interested in trying this coffee while you are self-isolating at home. The best recipe I have found for Dalgona coffee can be found here

Since my barista failure at home, I have been sticking to black coffee with a splash of milk most mornings. While the simple drink satisfies my caffeine cravings, it doesn’t have the same appeal as a perfectly made latte or a piping hot cappuccino with a dash of cinnamon. Much like the rest of the world, I am waiting patiently for the day that I can go out cafe hopping again. 

Cafe Society is a monthly column which chronicles one girl’s search for the perfect cup of coffee. Have a cafe to recommend? Contact Amy via email at bensema.amy@gmail.com or follow her caffeinated adventures as @phuketstagram on Instagram.

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