Beating pandemic blues with blueberry dalgona coffee

Watching viral videos of dalgona coffee — and creating my own version — broke me out of a coronavirus-induced slump last year.

My blueberry dalgona coffee. Lauren J. Mapp

Like many at the beginning of the pandemic, I suffered from increased anxiety and depression when the world shut down and the threat of COVID-19 overwhelmed me.

As a reporter suddenly thrown into covering the virus, I felt trapped in an endless cycle of reading and writing about it. My work days bled into the nights and weekend as doomscrolling social media for news about the coronavirus encroached on my life.

At my worst, I spent entire weekends snacking on junk food, binge watching Disney princess films and sobbing in bed. 

Then dalgona coffee went viral, and I had a new weekend treat to ease my depression. 

Dalgona coffee first stepped into the international limelight after South Korean actor Jung Il-woo drank the whipped coffee drink earlier in the year during an episode of “Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun-Staurant.” But according to The New York Times, Hannah Cho’s viral TikTok video in March launched it as the unofficial drink of quarantine. 

Whipped coffee has been made in India, Pakistan and Greece for years. Pakistani Canadian food writer Sarah Mir of Flour and Spice Blog wrote of her experience hand whipping batch after batch of phitti hui coffee during a World Cup viewing party in 2002.

As she pulled her fourth tray cookies out of the oven after perpetually whipping coffee, two at time, when her brother decided to reprieve her.

“He loudly announced that everyone was done having coffee and cookies so that I could sit down and watch the game,” Mir wrote. “I don’t think my father was impressed, but I was quite relieved.”

Like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” resurging from Nathan Apodaca’s video of skateboarding and lip synching to the 1970s classic, Cho’s post breathed new life into frothy coffee.

Last year’s newly popular, fluffed up, tan mixture of coffee crowning glasses full of white milk intrigued me with its beautiful ombré layers. Coffee shops remained closed, so despite the labor involved, I needed to make my own.

Watching the mixture of cane sugar, instant coffee and hot water bubble up into foam in my kitchen soothed my weary eyes after days spent staring into my computer screen. But as much as I loved the flavor and experience of dalgona coffee, I hated scrubbing the sticky mess after.

Dalgona coffee evolved into the fun sidekick to my weekend brunch adventures of baking waffles. Aside from the simple milk and coffee version, I also experimented with the newly rich trove of recipes online that honey, chai, mocha and caramel. 

I grew more restless though as the pandemic inched on and my depression crawled back, so I busied myself by developing new variations to recover from the monotonous work week.

Inspiration came after purchasing an adorable cookie shaped like a pint of blueberries from Mug Buddy Cookies online. The next step in my journey: the blueberry dalgona coffee. 

Watching the purple hue of a cup of blueberries stain the cane sugar and water as they simmered on the stove mesmerized me. 

Sipping on a blueberry dalgona is a throwback to the strawberry milk I used to drink with my fried pastries at Dunkin Donuts as a kid. It has the nostalgia factor I need to reboot after a long week of working from home. 

The promise of a blueberry dalgona coffee energized me and brightened my day, giving me a reason to get out of bed, even as the pandemic loomed on. My husband and I now walk around our neighborhood daily, and we mostly avoid binge watching Netflix on the weekends.

Dalgona coffee works as a canvas for so many different flavor profiles, but as blueberry season fast approaches, it is this version I’m most eager to return to.

Blueberry Dalgona Coffee

For syrup (enough for eight drinks):

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup cane sugar

2/3 cup water

For dalgona coffee (makes two servings):

2 tablespoons instant coffee

2 tablespoons cane sugar

2 tablespoons water, hot

1 1/2 cup milk of choice


Add blueberries, cane sugar and water into a sauce pot over medium heat. When the mixture starts to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes while stirring occasionally. Turn off burner and let the mixture cool, then pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a jar and store in the fridge until ready to use. 

Combine coffee, sugar and hot water in a bowl, then whip together either by hand or with an electric mixer for four minutes or until stiff peaks form. In each glass, stir 2 ounces of blueberry syrup with milk, then add ice. Gently layer whipped coffee onto the milk, garnish with fresh blueberries and enjoy! 

Note: I like to garnish my blueberry dalgona coffees with 3D, blueberry pint cookies ordered from Mug Buddy Cookies. The adorable pastry has a lip to perfectly hug the side of a coffee cup, and the tiny blue sprinkles compliment the purple hue of the milk and blueberry garnish.


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