How is Vietnamese Coffee Different (9 Ways)?
Next to Brazil, the country of Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee producer.
That is why it is not a big surprise that coffee plays a big role in the day to day lives of the Vietnamese people. Vietnamese coffee is now popular all over the world. However, for those who haven’t tried it yet, they cannot help but wonder what makes Vietnamese coffee different.
To give you a good idea, here are some of the ways that make Vietnamese coffee stand out from other cups of coffee that you might have tried in the past:
1. Vietnamese Coffee Has a French Influence
It was in 1875 when the French colonists brought the first ever coffee tree to the country of Vietnam. Coffee bean plantations were made in the Northern region of Vietnam, expanding little by little to other parts of the country.
Soon after, they discovered that Tay Nguyen and Da Lat are the most idea spots for coffee bean plantations because of the hilly landscape and climate.
After the French introduced coffee, Vietnam then made it its very own as they build a cuisine and culture around it that you can never find anywhere in the world.
2. Vietnamese Coffee Uses Special Blend of Beans
The blend of beans and process of preparation help give Vietnamese coffee its unique style.
As mentioned earlier, the majority of the Vietnamese coffee bean plantations can be found in the Da Lat area, affectionately called Europe of Vietnam due to the hilly landscape and fresher climate.
Most of the coffee, tea, and flowers sold around the country have been originally cultivated in the south.
3. Vietnamese Coffee is Traditionally Roasted
If you have ever tasted Vietnamese coffee, the first thing you will notice is that it is very rich in flavors.
Some people argue that the filter drip is responsible for it but it is actually the traditional roasting that is responsible for the special intense taste of the coffee.
The Vietnamese roast it with butter, a pinch of salt, wine, and rice.
Butter is the very reason why Vietnam’s slow-drip coffee sports a somewhat oily texture. There are also roasteries that add flavors like caramel or chocolate that all suit the tastes of the local coffee fans.
Coarsely ground beans are placed in a phin or French drip filter sitting above the cup.
A thin lid weighs down the beans before hot water is poured into the phin. The water will then slowly trickle through down into the cup. The procedure must be repeated at least two times before the drip can produce enough coffee to enjoy.
4. Vietnamese Coffee May Also Use the Legendary Weasel Coffee
In case you don’t know it, Vietnam also has its very own version of the expensive kopi luwak or the coffee made using beans that passed through a civet’s digestive tract.
The original kopi luwak of Indonesia started when Dutch authorities restricted locals from using the harvested coffee beans, forcing farmers to brew undigested beans from waste of civets or weasels.
It resulted in a coffee that is chocolatey and smooth, which, combined with its scarcity, made this highly prized.
Vietnam weasel coffee or ca phe Chon is collected from the weasel droppings. Coffee cherries are the favorite food of weasels.
They usually climb coffee trees. Using their sense of smell, they only eat the ripest and tastiest ones.
The stomachs of weasel only digest the fruit’s outer flesh with the coffee beans being released instead. Digestive enzymes seep into the hulls, breaking down the natural protein structure of coffee beans.
Once cleaned then roasted, these beans turn brittle and hard with less protein. The coffee’s bitterness is then reduced to create a robust and distinctive combination of flavors unlike regular coffee.
The industry has been giving a lot of attention to the weasel coffee because of its characteristics, unique process of production, and expensive price tag.
5. Vietnamese Coffee Doesn’t Have Your Basic and Usual Add-Ins
Although adding condensed milk is quite popular and it is often the one initially associated with the Vietnamese coffee, the coffee can also be paired with others.
Yogurts, butter, eggs, and cheese can all be seen in Vietnamese coffee. This means that no matter what your preferences might be, you can be sure that you will find something that suits your taste and palate.
6. Vietnamese Coffee Tastes Better
Despite being on the sweeter side as far as coffee flavors are concerned, Vietnamese coffee still belongs to the stronger side.
The coffee from Vietnamese is naturally strong that some coffee drinkers even turn away from.
This natural strong taste is the result of the specific coffee bean that was used in their preparation.
The Robusta bean is found to be more caffeinated unlike the usual coffee beans being used in other parts of the world such as the United States.
Vietnamese coffee has a very different and distinct taste from your average cup of coffee because of how it is brewed.
This is a long and nice process because it is a type of drip coffee.
7. There is No Right or Wrong Way to Drink Vietnamese Coffee
You don’t have to worry about how many cups of sugar or milk you should use here.
Even if you drink Vietnamese coffee cold or hot, you can be sure that it will still taste amazing. You can add condensed milk to taste if you are preparing it right in your home.
In case you are outside and you wanted to grab a cup of Vietnamese coffee, most of the time, it is already prepared so there is no need for you to tell them the amount of condensed milk that will be added to your coffee since all restaurants and coffee shops have already crafted their offers to perfection.
If you are wandering the streets of Vietnam and you didn’t specify what you want, you will get the usual Vietnamese coffee.
People rarely ask for coffee with no condensed milk and you might receive some weird glances if you ask not to add it.
8. Vietnamese Coffee Doesn’t Need Refrigeration
During the process of preparing Vietnamese coffee, sweetened condensed milk is used instead of sugars, milks or creamer.
You might find the thick condensed milk a bit overpowering yet this is simply how this coffee is being made.
But if you will really think about, the condensed milk’s sweetness works really well to balance out that strong richness coming from the coffee beans.
One better thing here is that there is no need to refrigerate condensed milk. You just need to transfer your Vietnamese coffee from the opened can to a container or jar with lid so you can save and enjoy it for later.
By doing this, you don’t have to keep your creamers or milk in check and there is also no need to bother with expiration dates because condensed milk tends to have a longer shelf life.
9. Vietnamese Coffee is Something New Worth the Try
Finally, what makes Vietnamese coffee different is that it is something new and not like your usual coffee.
If you don’t really like drinking coffee because of the bitter taste, a cup of Vietnamese coffee might change your mind.
So, get a sip of the coffee because for all you know, this might just be your new favorite drink.
Different Coffee Types in Vietnam
Coffee in Vietnam has long overtaken and changed the nature of this rather simple and common drink.
Here are some of the most popular recipes that you might want to try as you travel across the country.
Since most of these types are not the fancy ones, you can expect to order these drinks in even the most traditional coffee spots in Vietnam:
Coffee with Milk or Ca Phe Sua/Ca Phe Nau
Most coffee love drinking the strong dark brew paired with sweetened condensed milk.
This practice started because it wasn’t easy for the French to get fresh milk. To date, fresh milk is still an uncommon ingredient used in traditional coffee shops.
While you can always ask for it, don’t expect it.
The combination of sweetened condensed milk and black coffee is called brown coffee or ca phe nau in the north of Vietnam while those in the south call it milk coffee or ca phe sua.
While this is usually served ice-cold, you can order it hot as well.
Egg Coffee or Ca Phe Thrung
This is a rich concoction where egg yolk is whipped with condensed milk to form an airy froth that will be added to dark coffee. You can consider it as the Vietnamese’s own version of tiramisu.
An invention in Hanoi, egg coffee originally entered the scene back in 1940s, a time when there was a scarcity of milk and only egg yolks served as a convenient alternative.
In Old Quarter in Hanoi, where this was invented, Café Giang still offers egg coffee although there are now places offering their very own recipe, some of which are even better than the original.
Yoghurt Coffee or Sua Chua Ca Phe
Just like coffee, the French also originally brought yoghurt to Vietnam and was also used in the local culinary tradition.
Creamy and rich, this is served with different toppings, such as fermented rice, mango, and coffee.
This combination might sound a bit odd yet the rich yogurt can actually pair surprisingly well with some drizzle of black coffee. All you need to do is stir and you can start sipping your drink right away.
Coffee Smoothie or Sinh To Ca Phe
For the past few years, coffee also started finding its way to the world of smoothies. Famous juice shops spice up the creamy fresh fruit blends with some Vietnamese coffee and they sometimes toss in cashews or yoghurt.
If you are in Hanoi, you can try their coffee blended with avocado and banana. If you are in Ho Chi Minh, coffee blended with sapodilla is also great.
Sapodilla is a type of tropical fruit that tastes like custard. Both of these are delish ways to satisfy your coffee cravings and get your much needed vitamins simultaneously.
Coconut Coffee or Ca Phe Cot Dua
It is not certain if coconut coffee is a traditional coffee recipe or if the boho coffee shops’ Cong Caphe chain was the one responsible for its invention.
However, the sure thing here is that it has now become a favorite among the trendy youth in Vietnam for the past few years.
Rich black coffee with a dash of condensed milk is combined with coconut milk then mixed with ice in some kind of shake.
There are some local coffee shops that serve the more regular version with a base of brown coffee or ca phe nau mixed with fresh milk and coconut milk.
Where to Get the Best Coffee in Vietnam
There is no question that Hanoi still remains as the country’s heart of café culture. While contemporary style coffee shops have now become popular, most traditional sidewalk cafes are still crowded from day through night with coffee drinkers of all ages that stay for hours over one glass or cup.
But, you can still be sure to find high quality coffee across the country.
Naming just a couple of places won’t do justice due to the extensive café culture in Vietnam. But to give you a good idea, below are some places that still remain as landmarks in the country’s two primary cities:
Trieu Viet Vuong
Dubbed as the Coffee Street, this particular stretch of the historic Hai Ba Trung District of Hanoi migh have more cafes in each block than other places in Vietnam.
These cafes range from more fashionable spots famous among teens to family-run shops. Café Tho, a Hanoian favorite, has been in business for 30 years, brewing a powerful cup that never fails to attract crowds on a regular basis.
Café Pho Co
Accessible through an entranced hidden behind a shop, there is a spiral staircase that will lead you up to Café Pho Co in Hanoi and an enticing view of Hoan Kiem Lake.
You could enjoy sipping your coffee from the peaceful balcony that overlooks the surrounding streets and the lake as you watch the seemingly unending traffic stream passing by.
Your trip to Hanoi will never be complete if you don’t try the egg coffee at the very spot where it was invented.
On the edge of the Old Quarter of Hanoi, you will find Café Giang, the first café that started to whipped this dessert or drink as far back as the 1940s.
There was very little change to both the atmosphere and the recipe. Although some might not be comfortable with the small stools here, the drink in itself is still topnotch.
Non-coffee drinkers can try their egg foam with sweetened cocoa or mung beans.
Café La Tamia
La Tamia is a retro café located in Ho Chi Minh City that gives its visitors a chance to get a glimpse of the Old Saigon.
You can relax on the vintage sofa or enjoy browsing the collection of the café owner composed of antique gramophones and TVs as you sip your iced coffee.
Is It Possible to Prepare Classic Vietnamese Coffee at the Comforts of Your Home?
After you come back home from the stunning country of Vietnam, you will surely want to try preparing the specialty coffee of the country right in the kitchen of your own home.
Although you might already have all the ingredients needed like the condensed milk and Robusta coffee powder in your pantry, you might want to consider buying the classic Vietnamese coffee press filter so you can achieve the right authentic flavors.
You may try preparing Vietnamese coffee at home but you should do so only if you got plenty of time in your hands.
Remember that the traditional Vietnamese coffee is not like your usual beverage.
Instead, this is more of a feeling you need to cherish and experience.
This is why you must only try this if you have the patience and time to enjoy drinking the fruits of your hard work.
This is why it is not a big surprise that the government of the country of Vietnam is always trying their very best to further improve the quality of the Robusta beans being produced in the country to satisfy the palate of the most demanding coffee critics and the pickiest of coffee connoisseurs.
At the end of the day, you cannot simply ignore the importance of coffee to the way of life of the Vietnamese.
And if you decide to visit enough cafes in the country, you could even notice the cultural differences in the variations of coffee from the south to the north of Vietnam.
The next time you are in Vietnam, see to it that your itinerary includes some time to delve into the local coffee culture of the country.