Take Your Java Jones East: Asian Instant Coffees


If you love the convenience of Starbucks VIA but find it a tad expensive for your instant-coffee needs ($10 for 12 sticks), pop over to your closest Chinese supermarket in Chinatown or Flushing to look for these cheap and tasty alternatives, by way of Southeast Asia. (IOG in Fresh Meadows, Queens, has a large selection but is less accessible.) The catch: Stock is inconsistent, so if you see any of these on the shelves, grab extras and start hoarding.

Nan Yang White Coffee, at $5 for 20 sachets, is brought to you by Old Town, Malaysia’s answer to Starbucks. The “Kopi O” version, which just means straight-up black coffee, comes in what looks like a tea bag but smells like (and actually is) ground coffee. It’s best for those who like their coffee black, no sugar: fragrant, no bitterness, with a delicate flavor and a pleasant finish at the end. It’s also good for those of you too lazy in the morning to even find a clean spoon and stir — just plop the sachet into a mug and add hot water.

The “white” in white coffee means it is unadulterated, and has nothing to do with the color of the coffee itself. Since the 1950s, Malaysian coffee makers have roasted coffee without adding sugar. The result is a brew that tastes less caramelized than most other coffees, and has a cleaner aroma.

If you prefer to take your coffee as a mini-helping of liquid dessert, you’ll find whole aisles of Vietnamese and Thai 3-in-1 coffee, creamer, and sugar options at the larger Chinese supermarkets for about $5 for 20 sticks or sachets. Try the VinaCafe for an extra powerful punch of Vietnamese caffeine and sugar. It’s even sweeter and stronger than the other popular Vietnamese brand, G7, and relatively easy to find. VinaCafe is also available on Amazon.