VIETNAMESE COFFEE and how to drink as a LOCAL

Nga Do
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the 19th century. And although Vietnamese coffee can be considered obscure, the country is actually the second largest coffee producer in the world. Vietnam happens to have an ideal topography for growing various species of coffee including Robusta, Arabica, Catimor, and Excelsa. Thus, there’s more freedom to play around and come up with a broader range of flavors, textures, and aromas. With variations that make use of black, eggs, and even fruit, Vietnamese coffee has developed a style of its own.

The preparation process, as well as the blend of beans, helps give Vietnamese coffee its particular style. Coarsely ground beans go into a French drip filter (called a phin), which sits on top of the cup. The beans are weighted down with a thin lid, hot water is added to the phin, and then the water slowly trickles through into the cup. Most people drink the resulting dark, strong brew with sweetened condensed milk, a practice that began because the French couldn't easily acquire fresh milk. In the north of Vietnam, this mixture is referred to as ca phe nau (brown coffee), while in the south it’s called ca phe sua (milk coffee).

Vietnam has far more to offer in the caffeine department than just coffee with milk. Below are a few more unique variations to look out for.

VIETNAMESE COFFEE and how to drink as a LOCAL
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Black coffee: Black coffee is for those who like strong bitter taste, it could be served hot or cold. It’s similar to espresso, but the Vietnamese use Robusta coffee instead of Arabica coffee, making Vietnamese black coffee is less sour and stronger than espresso. Roasted and grind coffee is added into a “phin” (a metal coffee filter), with a little boiled water. The coffee gradually drops in a glass, this process is slow and people usually make use of the waiting time to read newspaper before starting a day.

VIETNAMESE COFFEE and how to drink as a LOCAL 1
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Iced milk coffee: Iced milk coffee has a strong and bittersweet taste. It was recommended in top 15 drinks of the world by CNTraveler, a famous travel website. Iced milk coffee is simply black coffee mixed with condensed milk and added ice, but its special taste makes it become unforgettable to foreigners.

VIETNAMESE COFFEE and how to drink as a LOCAL 2
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Iced coffee milk: Contradictory to ice milk coffee, this drink is mainly milk, added a little of coffee. This drinks is very popular in the South and less known in the North as Southern people’ taste is much sweeter. Saigon is the metropolis of this Vietnamese coffee, from street coffee shops to classy cafes, you could order this coffee cup anywhere.  Nonetheless, Hanoi cafes almost do not serve this coffee. Hanoians prefer bitter taste of coffee than sweet taste of milk. Some foreigners might not like this coffee in the first try, but mostly become its addicts when they get used to it.

VIETNAMESE COFFEE and how to drink as a LOCAL 3
Photo by David McKelvey
Egg coffee: Egg coffee is the drink that makes Hanoi coffee so famous. Hot and fragrant, it’s the best choice for cool weather of Hanoi. Numerous cafes serve this drink lie in small alleys, which is hard to find; but the peaceful atmosphere in the cafes would help visitors relaxed. The recipe is simple: pouring hot coffee and honey into whipped egg, adding matcha powder or cocoa powder to make the cup more delicious.

Salt coffee: There are some famous cafes serving salt coffee in Hue, ancient capital of Vietnam. They flavour coffee with a little salty, making it taste specially charming. Coffee is usually slightly sour, Vietnamese traditionally add a little salty to decrease the sour taste. The method applied nowadays is a bit different: they mix salt with coffee powder before adding to a filter make it taste more delicate.

Coconut latte: Finally, coconut latte with its fresh flavour could make your Vietnamese coffee experience perfect. It’s easy to make this coffee: grinding a mixture of coconut milk, condensed milk and ice, then pouring it into black coffee. This coffee is cold and easy to drink, that is the reason why it’s so hot to Vietnamese youth.

Drink like a local

A few coffee-drinking tips for your Vietnam trip:

Milky way: Don’t even try to ask for decaf. If you prefer your coffee mild, do as the Vietnamese do and order ca phe bac xiu, coffee with lots of extra condensed milk.

Sweet spot: As condensed milk is sweetened, there is no white coffee without sugar. True coffee connoisseurs should opt for ca phe den (black coffee). A touch of sugar will bring out the complex flavors, just as it does with dark chocolate. However, if you want to ensure that your drink isn’t too sweet, ask for it duong (less sugar).

Avoid hunger: Cafes in Vietnam don’t typically serve food. Some newer cafes do offer quick eats, but you’re better off following the local custom of eating first and then heading to a cafe to relax. In a pinch, you can always nibble on hat huong duong (sunflower seeds).

If you’re planning to discover all the Vietnamese traditional coffee, get contact us to bring you to “legendary” cafes hidden in small and ancient alleys of the cities. The offers numerous experiences, either one dedicated to a cafe culture exploration or journeys with coffee tasting activities are incorporated.

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