I spent up to an hour (!) whisking Dalgona coffee, and learned a few things about mindfulness.

I have to admit: I’m a bit of a trend snob, and I often raise my eyebrows and roll my eyes at all sorts of trends. (I can be very judgy, yes, and I apologize for it.) But the enhanced community quarantine and my need for non-work diversions somehow turned me into a fan of (certain) Korean dramas*, and it also made me a bit more curious about certain elements of South Korean lifestyle.

So when the Dalgona coffee craze** hit social media–and when my beloved asked me to please try making some–my competitive side felt challenged, and I said yes despite being a non-coffee-drinker and a non-baker (with very little whisking experience).

I’ve only made it twice this week, but my most recent whisking episode unlocked Eureka moments in mindfulness, which I’d like to share here.

First things first: How to make Dalgona coffee
Dalgona Coffee ingredients
Dalgona coffee ingredients: equal parts instant coffee, sugar, and hot water

Dalgona coffee is made by creating a thick, frothy coffee cream over iced milk, the consistency of which some people have likened to a meringue. Most recipes call for the following ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps instant coffee (we used Nescafé Gold)
  • 2 tbsps sugar (we used muscovado sugar–we don’t use white sugar)
  • 2 tbsps hot water

Mix everything together until the mixture is free of lumps, then whisk away until you get the desired richness and creaminess.

Wisdom from whisking

Most recipes I’ve read and watched online said that the whisking process, if done by hand, takes just about 5 minutes. It doesn’t seem like such a long time–until you actually try it. In my case, my first try at Dalgona coffee required AT LEAST. 20 MINUTES. OF CONTINUOUS WHISKING.  (I blame it on the Muscovado sugar, which, while healthier, doesn’t seem to be ideal for this. And since I don’t have an electric mixer, there was no other choice but to do it manually.)

LEFT: After 10 minutes of whisking. RIGHT: It took at least 20 minutes of continuous whisking to get the desired creamy texture of Dalgona coffee.
LEFT: After 10 minutes of whisking. RIGHT: It took at least 20 minutes of continuous whisking to get the desired creamy texture of Dalgona coffee.

However, the next day, when we decided to give Dalgona coffee another go but use only half the proportions (because the original recipe felt too strong), I was apparently whisking and whisking and whisking for AT LEAST ONE HOUR without even knowing it. Here are some key takeaways from that process:

  • Whisking is a great exercise in mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about being present to and immersed in the moment. When you are whisking to get Dalgona coffee right, nothing else matters but the whisking process. And, of course, when you are preparing the coffee for a loved one, you add extra TLC to the process, making you extra-absorbed in the whisking. (That second time I was doing it, I didn’t notice the hour go by–I just wanted to get the creamy consistency right.)
  • You recognize that this is not all about you–and some things will happen at their own pace. At that moment of continuous, immersive whisking, you begin to see that this is not about you and how you whisk (although that is a huge factor, too). You understand that there are other factors at play here–in my case, using Muscovado sugar versus white sugar–and that you just need to respect that things will happen at their own pace. Others have been able to hand-whisk their Dalgona coffee in just five minutes; in my case, it took me at least 20 minutes the first time around. It got frustrating at a certain point, of course, but I just had to keep going steadily because my impatience wasn’t going to help..
  • You learn to let go and accept that, “It is what it is.” The second time I made Dalgona coffee with just 1 tbsp of everything, it seemed harder to whisk the ingredients together. Twenty minutes turned to 30… and before I knew it, an hour had passed without the rich, thick creaminess that I was looking for. I had to accept that any more extra whisking wasn’t going to help–plus, an hour of whisking, however mindful I was being, wasn’t exactly the best use of time. “It is what it is,” I thought as I served it to my beloved. He said it actually tasted better than the first one, but it just didn’t appear like it should have.

That hour spent whisking to no avail was quite a humbling experience. But it taught me some valuable lessons about mindfulness, about myself and my patience level, and about how to approach situations that aren’t going my way.

Of course, I learned how to make Dalgona coffee, too–and I now resolve to get an electric mixer for this and other projects, as soon as the lockdown is over!

*More reflections on these soon!

**Apparently, Dalgona coffee, although popularized by a Korean TV show named Pyunstorong in January 2020, traces its origins to India, Pakistan, and Macau. So it isn't really Korean, but the South Korean prowess for cultural influence has now made this a global coffee trend.

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