What comes to your mind when you hear the word “coffee“? Maybe the Italian espresso, the French café au lait, or your favorite Starbucks order. But did you know that Vietnam is the second-largest coffee bean producer worldwide behind Brazil? Keep reading to learn more about Vietnamese coffee and its history.
The History of Vietnamese Coffee
We can trace back the culture of coffee in Vietnam to the nineteenth century when the French colonized Vietnam and decided to take advantage of the region’s climate to introduce coffee plantations – and especially Arabica beans at first. Indeed, farmlands in Vietnam are massive and coffee is just one of many productions Vietnam has to offer. Most of the coffee production takes place in the Vietnamese region known as the Central Highlands, which border Laos and Cambodia. It is only later that the country developed the production of Robusta coffee beans, which are now what makes Vietnamese coffee so distinctive.
Robusta vs Arabica: What’s the difference?
What is the difference between Robusta beans and Arabica beans? First of all, they come from different trees. Robusta beans come from the Coffea Canephora whereas Arabica beans come from the Coffea Arabica.
While Arabica beans are often more expensive due to the specific climate conditions they need to grow, they are also the most produced. Arabica coffee is mild in taste, has a delicate aroma, and is low in caffeine compared to Robusta coffee.
As the last paragraph insinuates, Robusta coffee is strong and, well, robust. The tree that forms these beans is also robust and survives almost any weather situation. Thus, it is easier to grow. As for the taste, Robusta coffee is considered way stronger, and more bitter than Arabica coffee.
Coffee Shops in Vietnam
In Vietnam, you generally don’t go to a café only for the purpose of having a drink. More than this, it is an experience. Going to a coffee shop is supposed to be a relaxing activity, to people watch on your own, or catch up with friends, or study in a peaceful environment with free wifi. A lot of locals drink coffee all day long, with coffee shops opening very early in the morning and staying open until late at night.
What is Vietnamese Coffee?
Although coffee was brought to Vietnam by French people, Vietnamese people have definitely made it their own! The country has a lot to offer when it comes to coffee, with some very unique and interesting flavors.
Vietnamese Coffee Styles
1. Cà phê sưa
This type of coffee, called cà phê sưa, is the equivalent to a latte like we know them, only this one is prepared with condensed milk instead. The condensed milk is poured first in the cup, and the black coffee is poured over it. It is best to mix it before drinking it, to savor all of the flavors! There is also an iced alternative to this coffee called cà phê sưa đá.
2. Cà phê sữa chua
Although the name of this coffee is similar to the one we just talked about, there are far from being the same. Indeed, cà phê sữa chua is made with condensed yogurt. Fairly easy to make, you just need to put some yogurt in a cup and pour Vietnamese coffee over it. Usually, you would serve it with some ice cubes, as well as a straw or spoon.
3. Cà phê trứng
Another coffee that is very different from what we are used to in Western countries is the cà phê trứng. Cà phê trứng is literally an egg coffee. The concept of eggs being combined with coffee might sound confusing if you have never heard of it before, but believe me, it is probably not what you are imagining. In order to make it, you need to beat an egg yolk together with condensed milk and then pour it on top of your coffee, thus creating a kind of creamy meringue-like foam. Sounds delicious, right?
4. Cà phê dừa
This coffee is the best summer treat you could ever ask for! Cà phê dừa is a coconut coffee, and if you like how coconut tastes, then there’s nothing not to like about this drink. Rather than a classic cup of coffee, cà phê dừa is more like a milkshake or frappucino. In order to make it, you need some coconut cream, ice, and condensed milk. It is a must-try no matter what season you decide to visit Vietnam, but it will feel extra refreshing in the summer!
5. Cà phê bạc xỉu
If you’re not a huge fan of coffee, but have been convinced by this post that you still need to try one of the many Vietnamese coffee styles, then this is the one for you, as coffee is not really the main ingredient. This trendy drink has the same ingredients as cà phê sưa đá but with different amounts for each of them. Essentially, sweet condensed milk is THE key ingredient of this drink, with only a tiny bit of coffee and ice added to it.
6. Cà phê muối
Have you ever heard of a salty coffee? Now you have! Cà phê muối is made by beating some condensed milk together with salt and coffee. Better to try it in an actual coffee shop as the amount of salt you need to put in the coffee can be tricky and is an art that you really need to master to make the perfect salty coffee.
How to Use a Vietnamese Coffee Maker
The filter of the Vietnamese coffee maker is called a Phin. You can’t be impatient while using this tool as it is a slow dripping filter, which means it would take a while for your coffee to be done, but that is also part of the experience. There is something relaxing about this way of making coffee! If you want to find out exactly how to prepare the perfect Vietnamese coffee, watch this.
If you wish to find out more about the general history of coffee, then check out this article.