Southeast Asian Flavors Take Center Stage This Summer: Part One

Pandan, durian, and passion fruit are among the Southeast Asian flavors gracing coffee shop menus this summer.


Lately, the “fourth wave” of coffee has been on my mind—but what exactly does that term mean? Most define the fourth wave as encompassing more of a DIY approach to coffee: the amalgamation of TikTok recipe trends and a growing group of home baristas who got their start during the pandemic. To me, the fourth wave is primarily about having a less rigid and more fun approach to coffee; it’s a phase where there’s ample room for creativity, and recipe creators are encouraged to bring their unique personalities and cultures into their drinks. 

Embracing Southeast Asian Flavor

When I was first training as a barista back in 2016, all of the focus was on creating precisely dialed-in, Italian-style espresso drinks; never did I think that some of the most popular coffee shops in my city would one day be slinging ube lattes, pandan cold brews, and other drinks infused with the flavors of my childhood. But voila, here we are—and the list of POC-owned coffee shops with exciting drinks is continuing to grow! For now, we’re focusing on Southeast Asian-owned shops and how they’re incorporating Southeast Asian flavors—new to some, long-beloved by others—into their summer menus. 

Sip on iced durian lattes in NYC’s East Village. Photo courtesy of Not As Bitter.

Not As Bitter — Durian Latte

Though Not As Bitter is a newcomer to New York City’s East Village, the shop is already making waves amongst the city’s café goers with its creative drinks, including the durian latte. With its strong, distinct scent, durian has a bit of a controversial reputation. But the soft, custard-like fruit is a delicacy in many parts of Southeast Asia, and it makes for a deliciously creamy, naturally sweet addition to coffee.

A coconut ube latte and pandan latte at Los Angeles’ Nam Coffee. Photo by Emily Joy Meneses.

Nam Coffee — Pandan Latte + Coconut Ube Latte

Nam Coffee is the first café in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to Vietnamese coffee, serving up classics like cà phê sua dá (Vietnamese iced coffee) and cà phê trung (egg coffee). Owner and roaster Vince Nguyen cites his family’s hometown of Pleiku, Vietnam, as a big source of inspiration.

In the shop’s pandan latte, fresh pandan leaves bring a fresh, subtly grassy aroma to coffee brewed on a Phin filter—a traditional Vietnamese coffee maker. The coconut ube latte is refreshing yet decadent, dressed with a house-made coconut and ube (Filipino purple yam) drizzle.

Fresh pandan leaves add subtle grassy, herbaceous aromas to iced Vietnamese coffee. Photo by Emily Joy Meneses.

Anakula Coffee — ’Maria’ Passion Fruit Tea

Tart and refreshing, Anakula Coffee’s “Maria” (an iced passion fruit tea) is bursting with bright, citrusy flavor—the perfect way to beat the Manila heat. Located in the Las Piñas neighborhood close to Manila, Anakula specializes in sourcing Philippine-grown coffee (notably offering coffee from nearby Mount Apo) and highlighting classic Filipino flavors like ube and bibingka (Filipino coconut cake). 

Iced passion fruit tea at Manila’s Anakula Coffee. Photo courtesy of Anakula Coffee.

“Here at Anakula, we’re all about crafting products that inspire pride and leadership,” the café shares. “We serve products that connect deeply with Filipino culture, both in history and everyday lives. Through our products, we share the Philippines’ rich tradition.”

Stay tuned for part two of this article series, where we’ll showcase even more specialty-coffee shops bringing Southeast Asian flavors to their summer menus.


Emily Joy Meneses (she/they) is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles. Her hobbies include foraging, cortados, vintage synths, and connecting with her Filipino roots through music, art, food, and beverage.

Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.

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