So, my friends and I were trolling last weekend's Orange County Night Market on Saturday evening, looking for things to consume, when a girl in a fancy t-shirt walked up to us and handed us a tiny piece of paper with a coffee and tea menu on it. Being that both I and one of my friends basically run on caffeine, we sauntered over to the Contra Coffee and Tea booth and took a look, and man was that a great idea.
I will be honest, at first blush it looks like the two young Asian-American food scientists behind Contra jammed a bunch of buzzwords together (tea and coffee on nitro, on tap, cold brewed, bottled, smoked, and hopped), and I will admit I rolled my eyes a little bit, but when I tried their Vietnamese coffee, it completely won me over.
The reason I loved their coffee so much is simple: It tastes as good as Vietnamese coffee can taste, without any of the heavy, unfortunate after effects. The nitro in the coffee does what nitro does, and smooths everything out, imparting a creamy mouthfeel and mellowing the flavors without getting in the way. The result is a delicately sweet and creamy coffee that finishes smooth, clean and without the heavy mouth slick that can happen with lower quality Vietnamese coffees. While very often, Lee's or coffeeshop coffees can leave a slightly sickly sweet finish or weigh me down, all I wanted to do after finishing my little 12-ounce cup of coffee was drink another one.
So that's what I did. We all went back to the booth, and I put in another order, this time for a Thai tea, creamy without the cream thanks to the nitro. I do not hesitate to say that Contra's Thai tea was the best thing I had at the Night Market, and I had free beer.
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Now for the bad news: Contra doesn't have a physical storefront just yet. The team only started just a little over a month ago in the 4th Street Market's development kitchens (dare I say, first success?). If you want to try them, and you should, you'll have to chase them down at one of the events they'll be working. For a calendar, check out their website. They're hustling, so hopefully you'll see their bottled hopped cold brews in stores around Orange County and their tapped coffee in the kinds of places that serve coffee from a tap soon (personally, I prefer their stuff to the famous Stumptown nitro). They also cater.
And finally, they'll start showing up at the Downtown Santa Ana Farmer's Market in the near future, so there's another reason to go to that! (You can follow them on Twitter, on Instagram, and like them on Facebook too, if you're into that).