Vietnamese Coffee Culture - History of Vietnamese Coffee
La Sinfonía del Rey Hotel & Spa

History of Vietnamese Coffee

Coffee is a huge part of daily Vietnamese life. Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world. The French brought coffee to Vietnam in the 19th century, and after the Vietnam War, the government instituted a massive coffee production program.  By the 1990's the country’s coffee production started to take off and today Vietnam is producing over 1.73 million tons of coffee a year.

Vietnam is the world's second largest exporter of coffee, but the coffee is almost always Robusta, which is primarily grown in Vietnam.  Robusta is almost twice as strong caffeine wise, with a thick lingering taste and higher acidity. The strong taste, a thicker brew and a few over-roasted beans makes for a different, distinctive taste.  

Vietnamese Coffee nowadays

Vietnamese coffee is almost always drip coffee. The ubiquitous Vietnamese street coffee stalls utilize rudimentary aluminum drip filters. Coffee is traditionally brewed in individual portions using a phin, which consists of a small cup, a filter chamber and a lid that also functions as a container to catch dripping cups of exquisitely aromatic black coffee.

The Vietnamese like their coffee nice and slow, and setting up the filter and choosing right time to drink is an art in itself.  When the coffee is good, you’ll want to make it last.

Preparing the coffee this unhurried way, forces you to slow down and savor the experience.  Watching the coffee, drip by drip, not only stokes your desire, but also forces you to sit for a few minutes, while the coffee brews.  While all Vietnamese coffee is not prepared this way, the classic slow drip method, is a real treat and a reminder to chill and enjoy conversations.  This is especially welcome advice in the all-encompassing hustle and bustle of life in the heavily populated Vietnamese cities.

In Vietnam, whether served as hot coffee or iced coffee, it is served with sweetened condensed milk.  Vietnamese coffee is also famous for its incredibly sugary, sweetened condensed milk. which provides the perfect counterbalance to the incredibly strong, dark-roasted Vietnamese coffee.

Vietnamese people drink coffee morning, noon and night, at proper cafes or on little plastic stools on the street.  Cafes — be they sit-down outdoor coffee shops, indoor coffee shops or more casual street-side coffee stalls are just a few of the gathering places for people of all ages.

Why condensed milk you ask? 

The French who brought the coffee culture with them to Vietnam found that getting their hands on a steady supply of fresh milk every day was difficult. Introduce shelf-stable condensed milk and voila, the sweet life goes on. Then they just needed to teach the locals to make baguettes & croissants, and all would be well in the world of colonization. Adding this incredible knowledge to the list of what to eat in Vietnam will soon make you a Vietnam foodie expert.

What does Vietnamese coffee taste like?

Made with signature dark-roasted Robusta beans in a very slowly drip press, it’s no wonder the first word that comes to mind when you sip a cup of Vietnamese coffee is “robust”. The strong and bold flavor of the coffee is euphorically balanced out with the sweet, rich flavor of the condensed milk, creating a flavor utopia. Even those who are not sweet coffee drinkers will fall in love with the flavor balance;  because Vietnamese coffee is in nature so strong and flavorful, it can withstand sweetness without losing it’s true “coffee” flavor.

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