Vietnam doesn’t usually rank among the most famous for its coffee culture.
While coffee may not have been a part of Vietnam’s culture as long as in other well-known places like Italy or Turkey, there is still a long and rich history of coffee in Vietnam to explore.
Over time, the coffee drinking culture in Vietnam has evolved and resulted in some unique ways of making and consuming coffee.
Let’s take a look at how this unique and exciting coffee culture has developed.
A Brief History of Vietnamese Coffee
Coffee is not native to Vietnam; French colonialists introduced it. It quickly became an important cash crop in the region and cemented itself as a part of Vietnamese culture.
Despite the European origins of Vietnamese coffee culture, it did not develop in the direction of espresso coffee that is now so popular worldwide.
This can be attributed to a few significant factors:
- Fresh milk products were not widely available in Vietnam until relatively recently.
- The expensive equipment needed for espresso coffee was not available or accessible.
- Robusta beans that are grown in Vietnam are not typically suitable for use in espresso drinks.
Under these constraints, Vietnamese coffee went down the route of pour-over filters for brewing, and long life sweetened condensed milk for creaminess and sweetness.
Along with this unique brewing method, a unique cafe culture has developed in Vietnam.
Daily life happens out in the open in the towns and cities of Vietnam.
Many people live in small houses and apartments without extensive cooking facilities, so it is popular to eat at street stalls for two or even three meals a day.
These cheap eats are served at roadside food stalls. The footpaths of every major Vietnamese city are occupied with vendor carts and small plastic tables and chairs.
Coffee is served precisely the same way, with Vietnamese coffee lovers stopping by their favourite roadside stall for a strong caffeine loaded brew.
The small aluminum coffee filters used in Vietnam are perfect in this setting. With these filters, a cup and boiling water, you have everything you need to make a delicious cup of coffee without expensive equipment, running water or even electricity!
The speed of everyday life is offset by the slow drip of coffee from these filters into clear glasses that contain a layer of sweetened condensed milk.
As the traffic whizzes past, you can take a moment to sit and relax as you wait for your coffee.
You may be forgiven for thinking that the only options for Vietnamese coffee are black or sweet. These certainly are the most popular variants, but there are many other amazing and unique coffee-based drinks in Vietnam.
One that has had a lot of attention recently is Vietnamese egg coffee. This style replaces the creaminess of milk with whipped egg yolk.
The egg yolk and sweetened condensed milk are whipped into a creamy consistency and combined with traditionally brewed Vietnamese coffee, introducing a layer of sweet foam reminiscent of a cappuccino.
Another interesting combination is yoghurt coffee. This drink combines yoghurt, sweetened condensed milk and coffee to make a surprisingly addictive drink.
Typically served over ice, the sweetness of the milk, combined with the yoghurt’s tart creaminess, perfectly complements the richness of Robusta beans.
A New Wave of Coffee Culture
Despite the overwhelming popularity of traditional filter coffee in Vietnam, changes are happening in the local coffee culture.
It is now possible to find upscale cafes serving espresso-based drinks or other drinks based on other pour-over methods in major cities.
Along with this evolving appreciation of new brewing techniques is an awareness of the quality of coffee and where it comes from.
The Robusta beans traditionally used for Vietnamese coffee are not carefully selected or roasted. There is a tendency to over roast these beans to hide these imperfections.
There are producers like Belvico looking to change this. Belvico works directly with farmers in the Central Highlands to grow and select only the best Robusta beans.
These high-quality beans are then roasted in their facility. With careful control of the entire process, they can produce Robusta coffee of the highest quality.
These high-quality beans can be used in traditional brewing or with the latest third-wave coffee brewing techniques.
This high-quality product is ushering in a new era for Vietnamese coffee that honors the past and looks forward to a future with higher quality, more ethical ways of making a cup of coffee.