Vietnamese is perfect for those who love a strong, dark roasted flavor. One cup of coffee is about equal to three cups elsewhere, so drinkers beware! The Robusta bean is the main coffee bean of Vietnam, and its caffeine content is even deadly to bugs, making it an excellent defense from insect attacks.
History of Coffee in Vietnam
While coffee was first brought to Vietnam by a French Catholic priest in 1857, it wasn’t until the 1900s that the Robusta bean began to grow and flourish in Vietnam’s highlands. Eventually, over decades, coffee plantations would pop up in the Dak Lak province.
When the Doi Moi economic trade reforms occurred in 1987, Vietnam began trading coffee in the world market. Quickly, it became the world’s second largest coffee provider (after Brazil) and currently produces 20% of the world’s coffee.
Types of Vietnamese Coffee
Some coffee drinks are more popular than others in Vietnam. Let’s look at some of the local favorites.
Ca phe sua da (iced coffee)
This literally means coffee with milk and ice. This is THE favorite coffee among tourists to Vietnam. It uses condensed milk which gives the coffee a sweet and creamy flavor.
Since dairy isn’t and wasn’t a popular part of Vietnamese cuisine, condensed milk was the best way to get dairy shipped across the ocean and still be safe for use. Lucky for us, it created a delicious coffee drink!
The drip coffees are made with a phin, also known as a Vietnamese coffee press. The grounds are put in the phin on top of a drinking glass. As hot water is poured over the coffee, it then drips into the glass slowly.
There are a few different types of drip coffee that are popular in Vietnam. There is black coffee which can be served with or without milk and either hot or iced. Some people enjoy a coconut coffee as well.
Traditionally, the caphe sua da above, also uses a phin to filter the coffee. It’s dripped over the condensed milk and then when finished, it’s transferred over to another glass full of ice. However, on the street or some coffee shops already have the coffee prepared and just pour it over condensed ice milk and ice.
Egg Coffee (ca phe trung)
Egg and coffee. While this may not be your first choice of drink, we can assure you it is delicious. The egg yolk is beaten with sweetened condensed milk until it makes a fluffy like meringue. This delightful mixture is then poured over a hot or iced espresso.
Where did this egg idea come from? In 1946, a bartender named Giang created this frothy drink during a milk shortage. Without any dairy, he invented a way to make a wonderful substitute for a creamy sweet addition to his coffee.
Guests at the Metropole Hotel, where Giang worked, loved his new drink. Soon after he left and opened his own coffee cafe! While others tried to copy his popular new drink, none could compare, and now his special recipe has been passed down to his children who run their own cafes.
Vietnam Weasel coffee (kopi luwak)
Considered one of the most luxurious coffees in the world, the Weasel coffee goes by many names such as kopi luwak, ca phe chon, civet coffee, and weasel poop coffee. Wait… Did you just read poop? Yes, yes, you did.
Weasels will find and eat ripe coffee cherries. Their bodies digest the flesh of the coffee bean and then the weasel will poop out the rest. The bean will be removed from the feces and cleansed.
After the bean dries, it will turn a dark green color and then it will be roasted and ground into a fine powder. This sounds pretty gross, but in fact it is a delicacy sold worldwide.
If you choose to try weasel coffee, make sure that they are from ethical sources where the weasels are treated well and not living in dirty or caged conditions. You can buy the powdered and raw Weasel coffee beans at Ben Thanh Market and certain supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City.
Robusta vs Arabica
There are two main types of coffee plants in the world: the Robusta and the Arabica. The Robusta bean comes from the Coffea Canephora plant, and that Arabica grows from the Coffea Arabica plant.
- Robusta tends to be a lower quality than Arabica, but the Robusta is easier to grow and survive.
- The Robusta has almost double the caffeine than the Arabica bean.
- For an earthy, nutty and more bitter taste, Robusta is the choice. The Arabica tastes sweeter and fruiter.
Vietnam is a coffee lover’s dream. WIth a variety of new and unique options, you will have plenty of caffeine, and energy, to tour the country.