Friday February 8, 2013

Lao coffee to go

While going about our Mekong work in Lao PDR, we love picking up on cultural details, like this intriguing style of serving coffee complete with a straw and to-go handles. The country’s coffee buzz dates back to the 1920’s, when the French colonists capitalized on the prime coffee growing conditions in the Bolovens Plateau, an elevated region at the southern tip of Laos.  Decades of war in the mid 20th century put a damper on coffee production, but the cash crop has since surged to become Lao’s top agricultural export. And locals have clearly developed a taste for the drink as well.

While coffee represents a French influence, the “to-go” lifestyle may be an import from frenetic American culture. Though all-too familiar with drinks on the run, we were surprised by the unique local twist: a plastic coffee sling. Our best guess is this helps scooter-driving coffee fiends drink on the dash. In the absence of cup holders, since most people in Lao PDR drive motor scooters rather than cars, the plastic handles can easily slip over the handle bars—like other interesting things we’ve seen dangling there (see Frog to go). As handy as the slings look, they would be even better if they were reusable. Plastic trash is serious problem in many parts of the Mekong (see Trawl full of trash), and the throwaway lifestyle of American culture is one trend it would be better not to import.

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