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A Guide to Vietnamese Coffee and How to Make It

29 July 2020
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Vietnam, more widely known for its strong and flavourful local coffee, is the world’s second-largest producer of coffee and top producer of the Robusta bean. The Southeast Asian country’s hilly landscapes and cooler climate make it the perfect location for coffee plantations. 

The next time you travel to Vietnam, walk down the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and be welcomed by the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans.

The Beginnings

In 1857, the French introduced coffee to the locals and soon after, the country was filled with coffee plantations as it was a lucrative industry that boosted the economy.

When the Vietnam war came along, locals migrated, leaving behind their plantations. It was not until 1986 when private enterprises were given licenses to resume coffee production.

How It Became a Coffee Production Giant

a back shot of people sitting along the window in a cafe in London
Drinking coffee in London? The beans might be from Vietnam as it exports coffee beans all over the world. Photo from Christian Battaglia.

Coffee farmers initially relied heavily on the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides to increase yields. However, with more worldwide regulations set in place, most farmers are now moving towards organic practices, producing more sustainable coffee.

Learn more about this coffee roaster in Malaysia that operates on a sustainable ethos.

Contrary to Arabica beans, the hardier Robusta is easy to care for, less prone to crop diseases and has a greater crop yield. With lower production costs, major coffee companies have also set up their manufacturing plants in Vietnam.

Today, more than 40% of the world’s Robusta bean is produced by Vietnam. Every year, the country produces nearly 1,650,000 metric tons of coffee and exports globally to top coffee consuming countries like Europe and America.

A Unique and Distinct Taste

Those who enjoy a cup of coffee with robust flavours and a thicker than usual consistency will enjoy Vietnamese coffee. Their traditional roasting method allows the beans to release intense and complex taste notes, and some roasters add ingredients such as butter and caramel to alleviate the flavours.

Vietnam’s signature coffees are made from two vital ingredients – medium to dark roasted coffee and sweet condensed milk. But there are many other variations which have led Vietnamese coffee to develop a style of its own.

Learn more about the difference between various types of roasts.

Here are two of the most common coffee drinks in Vietnam and how to make them at home.

Cà Phê Sữa Đá – Vietnamese Iced Coffee

a tall glass of iced vietnamese coffee
The Cà Phê Sữa Đá is a perfect drink on a hot, sunny day. Photo from Frank Mckenna.

If you have walked into a Vietnamese eatery, this glass of iced coffee will probably ring a bell. The classic Vietnamese iced coffee drink is nothing like an iced latte. It is sweet, aromatic, and might give a caffeine kick that will send your heart racing.

This drink is usually served along with a spoon to mix the condensed milk. So don’t forget to mix well before sipping on this heavenly concoction.

What you need:

  • 2 tablespoons of Vietnamese coffee powder, medium grind
  • 2 tablespoons of condensed milk
  • Hot water
  • Crushed ice cubes

Instructions:

  1. Add the condensed milk to a tall glass.
  2. Put the coffee powder into a Vietnamese Phin Filter and use a teaspoon to compact it. This will slow down the seeping process, giving a stronger brew.
  3. Pour hot water over the coffee grounds, and let it drip into the tall glass.
  4. Add the crushed ice cubes.
  5. Stir well, and serve immediately.

Learn more about how different coffee grinds will affect the strength of your coffee.

Cà Phê Trứng – Coffee with Egg

a cup of Vietnamese coffee
The Cà Phê Trứng is an iconic coffee drink in Vietnam that cannot be missed. Photo from Bill Bogenschutz.

Although its concoction of whipped raw eggs, sugar, and a strong shot of espresso may seem unappealing to many, the Cà Phê Trứng is a must-have when visiting Vietnam. Its foamy consistency and sweet finish will definitely leave an unforgettable mark on your tastebuds.

This recipe calls for a Vietnamese Phin Filter to make the drip coffee. However, if you don’t have one, the closest alternatives are a French Press or drip coffee maker.

What you need:

  • 1 fresh egg yolk
  • 3 teaspoons of Vietnamese coffee powder, medium grind
  • 2 teaspoons of condensed milk
  • Hot water

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the egg yolk and condensed milk until slightly frothy with soft peaks.
  2. Using a Vietnamese Phin Filter, pour hot water over the coffee grounds to get a cup of coffee.
  3. Add the frothy mixture on the coffee, and serve immediately.

Keen to learn more about the coffee culture in other Southeast Asian countries? Find out here.