Even as the second-largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil, Vietnam is still mostly ignored by Western coffee drinkers.
In part, this is because there have traditionally been few producers of high quality, speciality coffee in Vietnam, with producers mostly selling low-quality beans to be used in instant coffee products.
This is changing slowly, but surely. There is an increasing number of speciality coffee producers in Vietnam looking to reverse this trend.
Vietnamese speciality coffee could be coming to a coffee shop near you soon, so there has never been a better time to learn about the Central Highlands, the home of Vietnamese coffee.
The Home of Coffee in Vietnam
There are an estimated 570 000 hectares of coffee under cultivation in Vietnam’s central highlands, making it one of the most productive coffee-growing regions globally.
Inland, bordering both Laos and Cambodia, the Central Highlands is a region spanning five provinces in the south of Vietnam.
This region is far more temperate than the country’s coastal areas and features a rich, red volcanic soil with high concentrations of basalt.
These are the perfect conditions for growing coffee, and this soil and unique climate give Vietnamese coffee a distinctive flavour profile.
One of the most significant differences between the coffee industry in Vietnam and other major coffee producers is the type of coffee produced, with growers emphasising Robusta over Arabica beans.
Robusta in the Central Highlands
Robusta beans were first introduced by the French due to their hardiness and quickly came to dominate in Vietnam.
Perfectly suited to the Central Highlands climate, this variety of coffee tree is famed for being highly productive. Robusta plants produce a large, rounded coffee bean that has almost double the caffeine of Arabica beans.
Naturally bitter caffeine combines with the natural flavours of the Robusta bean to create an intense coffee with a nutty, rich taste.
Robusta makes up 97% of Vietnamese coffee exports and is used in the traditional method of brewing coffee in the country. However, it hasn’t met with a lot of success globally.
Most Robusta is sold to companies producing instant coffee, or for the extraction of caffeine. Few producers take the care to grow quality beans, instead aiming for high quantity.
However, producers are looking to change this by working with producers to grow high-quality Robusta that is expertly roasted.
Arabica in the Central Highlands
Making up the remaining 3% of Vietnamese coffee production, Arabica is only grown in the central highlands’ high altitude regions.
Arabica is more well known globally and is used in the vast majority of cafes globally for espresso and pour-over coffee drinks.
Arabica plants themselves are far more sensitive and slow-growing, but the beans themselves are packed with nuanced, fruity flavours that coffee drinkers just love.
Long ignored in favour of high yield Robusta varieties, more and more farmers are turning to Arabica as the demand for speciality coffee sourced from the Central Highlands soars.
Ethical Specialty Coffee from the Central Highlands
Conditions for coffee growers in the Central Highlands have long been poor.
The Robusta beans they grow are traded more as a commodity than a speciality product, and fluctuations in the coffee market significantly impact them.
Belvico is a local company trying to change the Vietnamese coffee industry for the better one cup at a time.
Working directly with local farmers, Belvico encourages them to grow high-quality coffee sustainably and ethically.
The team at Belvico takes these high-quality Robusta and Arabica beans and roasts them to the highest standards in their specialized facility in Lam Dong. With a higher quality product, Belvico aims to put Vietnamese coffee on the map.
Belvico believes that when grown and roasted with care, even the long maligned Robusta bean can hold its own against the best in the world.
With a purchase of Belvico’s speciality Robusta or Arabica coffee, you are directly supporting the farmers of the Central Highlands and a coffee producer that aims to uphold the highest standards.
Try some of Belvico’s speciality single-origin coffees for yourself and taste the difference!