Vietnamese coffee, or "cà phê", is a popular Vietnamese style of coffee. It has 2 major distinctions from traditional coffee served in Western countries, particularly in the type of coffee bean and the uses of sweetened condensed milk instead of sugar and milk.
While Arabica beans are the popular coffee beans in the West, Robusta beans are more common.
The bean produces an earthier and nuttier flavor than the Arabica. It is also often mixed with sweetened condensed milk in-lieu of fresh milk and sugar.
It can be served hot but due to Vietnam's warm climate is often served over ice. Vietnamese Iced Coffee or "cà phê sữa da" has become very popular and trendy amongst coffee drinkers in both the East and trending in the West.
It is the coffee of Vietnam.
This article will cover a lot, from its history to how to make Vietnamese coffee; including popular brands of Vietnamese coffee beans if you want to make it at home.
A Brief History
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by French colonists in the 19th century. Initially grown in the highlands, the coffee plants thrived in Vietnam's ideal climatic conditions.
By the 20th century, coffee cultivation expanded exponentially, with Vietnam growing both robusta beans and arabica beans. Robusta, being the dominant variety, contributes significantly to Vietnam's global coffee production.
For a short period after the Vietnam War, all coffee agriculture was collectivized under the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
In the late 1980s, the privatized enterprise of coffee production was again permitted and the result was Vietnam becoming one of the coffee producers in the world.
Coffee Production and Beans
Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee beans in the world. The country produces a variety of strains, including Robusta, Arabica, Cherri, Moka, and Culi.
Cultivation typically takes place in the Central Highlands of the country.
Robusta beans account for over 90% of Vietnam's coffee output. This bean has shaped and influenced the distinct coffee culture in Vietnam. Robusta beans are known for their strong flavor and higher caffeine content than the arabica bean.
Robusta beans are often noted for their strong, full-bodied taste with a somewhat earthy and bitter flavor profile. This characteristic taste is due to the higher caffeine content and different chemical composition compared to Arabica beans.
Robusta coffee tends to have nutty undertones, with a less acidic but more pronounced bitterness. This robust flavor makes it ideal for those who prefer a more intense coffee experience. Pairing the strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk brings a balance loved by many.
Where to get Vietnamese Coffee
Restaurants and cafes
Vietnamese restaurants can be found in most major cities. A popular style of Vietnamese restaurant is Pho. The hot savory soup and noodle dish have become very popular and the venue often offers Vietnamese coffee. Going to a restaurant is likely the easiest way to try Vietnamese coffee besides brewing it yourself.
Try looking for a Vietnamese cafe or coffee shop for a more specialty take. While less common than restaurants, will carry Vietnamese coffee as well as Vietnamese treats. Visit these cafes to try other popular varieties of coffee as mentioned below.
Brewing at home
It’s incredibly easy to brew Vietnamese coffee at home.
A key component is the coffee bean itself. As mentioned above, brewed Vietnamese coffee is commonly made with Robusta beans.
Most Asian grocery stores will carry ground coffee beans. Even more brands can be found online.
If you choose to brew at home, you'll need some coffee beans. We've chosen brands that have a long reputation but also could easily be found in local grocery stores or online.
- Trung Nguyen Premium Blend -
- Trung Nguyen g7 instant
- Nguyen Coffee Supply
- Saigon Drip OG
Varieties of Vietnamese CoffeeVietnamese Iced Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)
The most popular style is Vietnamese iced coffee. It involves serving traditional Vietnamese coffee over ice and with sweetened condensed milk.
Vietnamese being of a warmer climate will often prefer iced coffee over hot. Of course, you can have the coffee with or without ice.Egg Coffee (Cà Phê Trứng)
A unique concoction that originated in North Vietnam, egg coffee is a blend of hot coffee, sugar, and egg yolks.
Often likened to a liquid tiramisu, it's creamy, frothy, and exceptionally delightful.Coconut Vietnamese Coffee
Coconut coffee is a delightful mix of traditional Vietnamese coffee and coconut milk.
The sweetness of coconut milk combined with the robust flavor of coffee creates an exotic and tantalizing beverage.
Brewing the Perfect Cup
The brewing method Vietnamese coffee is made using a method involving a Vietnamese dripper called a Phin.
What's great about this method is that it is simple, and doesn't take up a lot of space, or require a electricity. It's portable and easy to clean.Recipe
Outlined below is a step-by-step recipe for brewing Vietnamese coffee using a phin.
For a video tutorial on how to brew Vietnamese coffee please visit your tutorial section.
- Boil water to brew the coffee. A normal serving size is about 120ml or 4oz of coffee.
- While the water is heating, add 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to your coffee cup. Please adjust the serving to your taste. Forgo the sweetened condensed milk if you prefer black coffee.
- Place the phin plate on top of the cup and then place the chamber on top of the plate.
- Add 3 tablespoons of ground coffee beans into the chamber. Even the surface of the grounds by light tapping or shaking the chamber.
- Place the phin insert on top of the grounds. Press the insert to lightly pack the grounds.
- Bloom the coffee grounds by adding a small amount(around 4 tablespoons) of water into the chamber. Let the grounds bloom for 10 seconds
- After blooming, slowly pour hot water into the chamber. Fill the chamber until it’s about 90% filled or about 4 liquid fl. oz.
- Place the lip on top of the chamber to begin the brewing process.
- Coffee will begin to drip into the cup.
- Total brewing time will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Brewing time will depend on how packed the grounds are. As you adjust the brew to your taste; the amount of coffee grounds, amount of water added, and size of the ground will affect the total drip time.
- Remove the phin after the brew time and stir the coffee and the condensed milk together until it’s completely mixed.
- You can enjoy the coffee hot or add ice to make that famous Vietnamese iced coffee.
FAQCan you use other brewing methods?
Vietnamese coffee at the end of the day is just that, coffee. You can use your favorite brewing tool to make a cup. You'll just have to adjust the method so that the flavors are properly extracted.
Keep in mind that if you're using robusta beans you'll have to adjust the serving size. Robusta beans have significantly more caffeine than arabica and a normal serving size of Vietnamese coffee is about 4oz.Can you use other coffee beans besides robusta beans
A distinct characteristic of traditional Vietnamese coffee is that it's made with Robusta beans.
The bold flavors of the robusta, paired with the condensed milk is what makes Vietnamese coffee distinct.
However, many popular brands do offer coffee bean blends and not just robusta. The taste will be different depending on what you use of course.