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Today's drink hails from Thailand – Oliang. 

What is it?

Forget Starbucks; when it comes to starting the day with a real caffeine kick, the only thing that really hits the spot is a glass of sharp and bitter oliang, a traditional Thai-Chinese version of iced coffee. 


Hailing from the Thai-Chinese community, the name oliang derives from the Teochew dialect; the o part means “black” while liang means “iced”. This iced, black breakfast drink has stayed true to its roots and, while there are variations, it is usually found only on roadside stalls or in rustic restaurants, not in fancy coffee shops. 

You'll need (Serves 4)

2 tbs dried corn 
2 tbs soybeans 
1 tsp white sesame seeds 
4 tbs coffee beans (robusta is best) 
2 cups (500ml) boiling water 
1 tbs sugar 
2 cups (500ml) crushed ice 


Step 1: Roast the corn and soybeans in a large frying pan on low heat, shaking them occasionally. After about 5–8 minutes, when they start to brown, turn off the heat and add the sesame seeds. 
Step 2: Leave everything to cool completely, then stir in the coffee beans. 
Step 3: Transfer the mixture to a coffee grinder and process until it becomes powdery, or pound the mixture using a mortar and pestle if you don’t own a coffee grinder. 
Step 4: Tip the powder into a large heatproof jug. Add the boiling water and leave to infuse for 1 minute. 
Step 5: Strain the liquid through a muslin or coffee filter into four heatproof coffee glasses and leave to stand for 5 minutes. If you only have thick standard glasses, place a metal teaspoon in each before adding the hot liquid, as this will prevent the glass from cracking. 
Step 6: Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the crushed ice and serve immediately. 

Tasting notes

For decades, oliang has been the drink of choice for Thais, who love its powerful, cool flavors. Imagine starting your day at a busy Thai restaurant, sitting on a blue plastic stool, surrounded by wooden tables and bare floors. Your oliang arrives, a glistening combination of ice, coffee and soybeans. Take a sniff first; it’s coffee, but not as you know it. As you sip, the coffee flavors flood your senses, but they are quickly overtaken by the bitter notes of the soybeans. The aftertaste is wonderfully robust and sharp. 

For additional cocktail recipes, check out our Destination Drinks page 

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