Kitchn Love Letters

This $5 Freezer Find Lets Me Recreate My Favorite Coffee Order for Way Cheap

published Jan 12, 2023
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Refrigerator, with freezer door opened. Food in freezer has been neatly organized. On the fridge door the freezer inventory checklist is hanging.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

I’m not a big coffee drinker, but lately I’ve been hankering for the intensely strong (but sweet) taste of an iced Vietnamese coffee. Otherwise known as cà phê sua đá, Vietnamese coffee in its simplest form is made with ice, water, condensed milk, and dark-roast coffee. 

Credit: Michelle Lau

My very first introduction to this flavorful drink happened when I tried it at a local Vietnamese eatery with a friend. Months later, when I had a thirst for another as a midday pick-me-up, I made a beeline to Lee’s Sandwiches, a national chain that’s been serving its Vietnamese banh mi since 1983 and, yes, its popular Vietnamese-style iced coffee.

Let me just say that this brew is downright tasty. I mean, it’s bitter, sweet, and bold in all the right ways. Lee’s version has a devoted following — it’s that good. But at $5 per cup, it’s also a hefty price to pay, especially if it becomes your new favorite drink.

Credit: Michelle Lau

So when I stumbled upon frozen bottles of Lee’s Coffee Café Latte Concentrate at Weee!, a nationwide online Asian and Hispanic grocery delivery service, I was intrigued and genuinely filled with joy. I never even realized the restaurant sold its popular coffee beverage as a concentrate in grocery stores. But, more importantly, I didn’t know recreating this drink could be so simple.

As a regular customer, I’ve known for a while now that Weee! is stocked with all kinds of delicious, hard-to-find goodies. Still, I wasn’t expecting to find Lee’s special drink mix — the answer to stirring up my own cup of Vietnamese-style coffee. I wondered how would it compare to picking up a drink at Lee’s Sandwiches. Could I, a person who is not a regular coffee connoisseur, make my own tasty drinks? The answer is most certainly yes!

What’s So Great About Lee’s Coffee Café Latte Concentrate?

If you love the taste of Vietnamese coffee, this quick and convenient trick is the way to go. Not only is it delightful, but it’s also a total bargain. Here’s what I’ve discovered: A bottle of this 16-ounce concentrate easily made me three to four servings. At $5 per bottle, that works out to between $1.25 and $1.66 per cup, depending on how strong you like your coffee.

Plus, the bottles arrive frozen, which means you can continue to store them in your own freezer for whenever the mood strikes. Best of all, you won’t need any special coffee equipment to make your own drinks. There’s little else you have to do other than whip out a spoon and stir.

What’s the Best Way to Use Lee’s Coffee Café Latte Concentrate?

I’ve discovered there are quite a lot of beverages you can make with these precious bottles. You can serve it chilled on ice, as a mocha drizzled with chocolate syrup, as a warm latte, or even as a cappuccino. 

I’m a no-fuss kind of coffee drinker, so I like to keep things simple. The best way to use this concentrate is to add plenty of ice in your favorite glass, pour in your milk of choice, and stir in the café latte concentrate once it’s been thawed. (To do that, I just leave it in my fridge to sit for one day.)

While the back of the bottle gives you full-on directions on how much to pour in, I like to wing it until it has the color and taste I desire. Then, I like to sit back and enjoy my own cup of chilled Vietnamese-style coffee that tastes just like it was made in Lee’s Sandwiches — at a fraction of the price.

Buy: Lee’s Coffee Café Latte Concentrate, $4.99 for 16 ounces at Weee!, or look for it at your local Asian grocery store

What budget-friendly groceries are you buying right now? Tell us about it in the comments below.