Vietnamese Coffee and Culture
Vietnam is infamous for its beautiful scenery, cultural heritage and war history, and is one of the most visited countries in Southeast Asia. Thousands of tourists also can't wait to try the locally grown and roasted coffee.
Vietnamese coffee is more bitter, sharper and stronger in flavour than what you would expect from any other coffee hotspots, such as in France or Italy. And it’s not just the taste that sets this coffee apart from anywhere else in the world, the Vietnamese coffee culture is also different.
Sit back, relax and enjoy
In Vietnam, coffee is appreciated as an essential, valued part of the daily routine. Drunk morning, noon and night, Vietnamese coffee is almost always drip coffee, where coarsely ground coffee beans are slowly roasted for about 15 minutes and are then usually added to a Phin (a French drip filter) with hot water. A Phin is a small cup, used to make individual portions of coffee, and it consists of a filter chamber and a lid. Slowly, the coffee flavour then trickles through to the cup below drip by drip. This allows the opportunity for relaxed chats as well as to savour the rich, intense taste. Despite the hustle and bustle of the city, drinking coffee is a slow affair, a chance to escape the chaos of life.
Whilst coffee can be drunk at home or in a modern coffee shop, traditional sidewalk cafés still attract crowds, pouring tables and seats in the streets until late at night, allowing many to linger for hours over a single glass, socialising and catching up. Coffee is not simply taken “to go”.
Vietnamese coffee is thick, can be served hot or cold, and usually with sweetened condensed milk to fill out the coffee. Sometimes, even yogurt or egg is added. Read on to find out more.
History of Vietnamese coffee
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by French colonists and a vast amount of land was quickly converted into plantations. By 1890, Vietnam was at the heart of a booming coffee industry.
However, due to dairy limitations, it was quickly made obvious that substitutes would have to be introduced. That’s why adding sweetened condensed milk to dark roast coffee quickly became a tradition.
By 1950, a commercial plant was erected and Vietnam became serious about making coffee. Although other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Laos and Cambodia, were perhaps earlier to the coffee trade, it’s Vietnam that has gone on to become Asia’s top coffee producer.
Unfortunately, after the Vietnam War, the country’s economy seriously suffered. After years of struggling and striving for normality, and with the country focussing on agricultural restructurings, by the 90s, Vietnam’s coffee industry was booming yet again. Its coffee industry continues to thrive and today, Vietnam’s coffee production employs over 2.5 million people.
How is Vietnamese coffee made?
Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world, with Brazil being the largest. Second only to rice, coffee is also Vietnam’s largest exported product.
Vietnam primarily grows Robusta coffee beans, famous for its higher caffeine content, lower acidity and therefore, more bitter taste. Although Arabica coffee beans can also be used in Vietnamese coffee. The Robusta coffee plant is easier to care for than other coffee plants, as they are less susceptible to disease, have a greater crop yield, more caffeine content, and more antioxidants.
Traditionally, Vietnamese coffee beans were roasted in a sweetened oil, often mixed with sugar, vanilla and cocoa, which gave the beans the sweet coating and rich flavour. However, today, Vietnamese coffee beans are typically roasted in butter oil for an even roast.
Types of Vietnamese coffee
You won’t find your typical coffee types in Vietnam. As mentioned above, the most common type of coffee in Vietnam is drip coffee. However, there are lots of other imaginative Vietnamese coffee types:
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