Most people, as PurelyCoffeeBeans knows, would never think of Vietnam's coffee as a premium coffee. But she has been producing it since it was introduced by missionaries from France in the mid 1800s.
In fact, Vietnam is one of the largest exporters of coffee in the world coffee markets. Turn over your next bag of Asian or regional blend, you'll find that they are likely included in the list of countries, since most coffee is really a blend of different types of coffee beans!
What will I learn about Vietnam's coffee?
- Is it safe to buy Vietnam's coffee?
- What is the secret of Vietnam's Coffee?
- Why is Vietnam's Coffee so popular?
What different types of Vietnam's coffee can you buy?
- How do you make Cafe Sua Da? The famous Vietnamese Sweet Coffee
- What is Boba Coffee?
- Where is Kopi Luwak or civet coffee from?
Why is Vietnamese coffee so special?
- Why is Vietnamese coffee so good? Is it popular in Asia and America?
- How do you make Vietnamese Coffee?
- What is different about Vietnamese coffee?
How do you make Vietnamese style coffee?
A lot of the Vietnamese coffee beans you see will include Robusta coffee beans, so it pops up a lot in blends across the world, whether instant, ground or whole coffee beans.
Is it safe to buy Vietnam's coffee?
Vietnam has ideal conditions for growing coffee thanks to its many micro-climates. For instance, coffee grown on the north slope of a mountain is quite different from that grown on the same mountain but on the southern slope.
In Vietnam, coffee plants are cultivated up to an altitude of 3600 feet and not just one species of bean. In fact, Vietnamese coffee usually contains more than one kind of coffee bean, such as Arabica and Robusta beans which are typically mixed together to make a delicious blend.
What is the secret of Vietnam's Coffee?
The secret to the wonderful flavor of Vietnamese coffees is undoubtedly the coffee roasting method. Beans are roasted slowly at lower than standard temperatures so that the beans do not burn.
Roasting slowly in that way causes the beans to have a dark color similar to dark roasted beans but with one big difference—while dark roasting can burn away the oils that give coffee its flavor, slow roasting seals in the flavor, creating a much stronger aroma in the bean, and a much fuller flavor.
Also, you will find that some spices are occasionally added to Vietnamese Coffee, esp. chicory and essence of hazlenut, at least in the coffee we have in the cupboard!
Why is Vietnam's Coffee so popular?
The people of Vietnam take their coffee seriously; they even have their own unique kind coffee maker. A Vietnamese coffee phin when it has been fully assembled looks a bit like a traditional top hat upside down. It is placed over the cup or mug you'll be drinking from and the coffee is spooned into the phin. Water that is close to boiling is then poured in and the brew drips into the waiting cup or mug.
How do you make Cafe Sua Da? The famous Vietnamese Sweet Coffee
The Vietnamese like their coffee with a real kick to it. You'll find it similar to their food, cooked with a strong distinctive flavor. In the cup, you'll notice how black and thick it is compared to a coffee latte.
Since the country has such a warm climate, coffee is often poured over ice cubes and mixed with sweetened condensed milk added. This is called Cafe Sua Da and is quite popular in coffee shops throughout the country.
You may wish to read more about how to make this kind of coffee at our Making Vietnamese Style Coffee page.
What is Boba Coffee?
The Boba drink is also a favorite, sometimes referred to as bubble tea in other countries, but Boba is made from fresh coffee, with the usual condensed milk poured in, and balls of tapioca that resemble pearls; the drink is poured over ice and shaken cocktail-style before being strained into a glass and drunk through a thick straw.
Where is Kopi Luwak or civet coffee from?
Also available from Vietnam is Kopi Luwak, also called Civet Coffee. The Civet, an animal that looks like a cross between a cat and a raccoon, eats ripe coffee cherries and passes the undigested beans.
These are gathered, thoroughly sanitized and sold as one of the most expensive coffees in the world. The beans have a unique flavor caused by enzymes in the Civets body that is unrivaled by any other coffee!
Although neighboring Indonesia produces the majority of Kopi Luwak coffee, Vietnam exports plenty of it, too.
Why is Vietnamese coffee so good? Is it popular in Asia and America?
Vietnam's coffee is becoming quite popular in North America in recent years. Although you probably won't find it in your local chain grocery store, it's well worth seeking out in specialty stores or an online shop.
How do you make Vietnamese Coffee?
Vietnamese Coffee (or Vietnamese Cafe Sua Da) has a long pedigree and can be found in many Vietnamese restaurants worldwide as well as in Vietnam's coffee shops.
It's relatively easy to make, and I was thrilled to find all the basics in a local Vietnamese restaurant and store so I could learn how to make coffee the Vietnamese way.
The French brought many fine French foods with them to Vietnam in the 19th century, among them French bread and a love of good coffee as well as several types of coffee beans popular elsewhere.
Coffee in Vietnam (locals say: 'ca phe sua da' or 'cafe sua da') however adopted a few local characteristics, and the modern Vietnamese Coffee drink is very popular there, and gaining a wider appreciation elsewhere, too.
What is different about Vietnamese coffee?
It's a blend of strong Vietnamese coffee, made from domestically grown coffees, including Robusta Coffee Beans, filtered in a Vietnamese filter device, served with condensed, sweetened milk.
I usually drink it hot, but iced is also possible because the coffee is already strong.
What do you need to make possibly Vietnam's favorite drink?
If you want to know how to make Vietnam's favorite coffee, the shopping list is quite simple: but if you can't find your Vietnamese coffee products elsewhere, try Amazon.com. I was surprised to find the Vietnamese Coffee Maker was very affordable, as was the ground coffee.
- 1. Coffee: I used Trung Nguyen Vietnamese coffee - a strong blend of Robusta beans with a strong flavor. To my senses, it smelled and tasted like chocolate. My wife thought the smell more reminiscent of hazlenut.
Since my pack had only Vietnamese writing on it, I was unable to identify the product properly on their website, but I suspect it is Creative 1: Culi Robusta which identifies the chocolate aromas. The grind seems anything but fine... perhaps suitable for longer filtration times.
Having experienced cheaper and much nastier Robusta coffee, I was totally surprised by the depth of flavor, absence of bitterness or harshness, and how well it matched the method making the coffee.
2. Vietnamese Coffee Maker: The Vietnamese coffee filter set or Phin. This device is deceptively simple. It looks like the top half of a Moka Pot. Take a look at the picture. Vietnamese coffee is simply a drip coffee maker that utilizes heat, grinding and time to make a surprisingly strong and delicious coffee akin to Italian espresso in color, flavor, and serving.
The device is a simple metal water holder with a large rim, Trung Nguyen calls it a "Gravity Insert". Inside the device, you'll see that there are holes through which the water filters, and small circular cover that 'tamps' the coffee down. You will also see a separate cover to sit over the top of the device to retain the heat.
3. Condensed Milk: This product is available in many countries worldwide, though it has fallen out of favor in the West because of its high sugar and fat content. However, its sweetened and thickened texture makes it an ideal match for deserts and Vietnamese Coffee.
You'll also need boiling water, a regular sized cup or glass (it's not particularly HOT but make sure your glass is tempered just in case!), a teaspoon, and about 15 minutes!
How do you make Vietnamese Coffee?
You can watch the following video to get a better idea of the process of making Vietnamese coffee.
If you've just bought the coffee maker, as I had, it needs rinsed to clean off any grime or dust. You'll also need fresh tap water to boil and a clean cup, saucer and teaspoon (or two). No additional cookies are needed as the drink is quite sweet.
Step 1: Boil the water in the kettle or on the stove. Once boiled, do not reboil the water as this kind of coffee needs hot water, not boiling water. You're not cooking the coffee grinds!
Step 2: Pour the condensed milk into the bottom of the cup or glass. I usually add about 1 or 2 teaspoons of the milk into the bottom of the cup. Do this first.
Step 3: Place the coffee phin on top of the coffee cup.
Step 4: Remove the circular tamp from the unit, and spoon in about one tablespoon of coffee into the bottom of the phin. Don't worry about using too much coffee! This coffee handles well.
Step 5: Tamp the coffee lightly with the circular tamp to press it down. Then leave the tamp sitting on the coffee to prevent the coffee swelling too much once water is introduced. For the screw-type phin, you'll need to screw down the tamp itself.
Step 6: The unit is quite small, so just fill a little hot water to soak into the grounds.
Step 7: Once absorbed, fill the drip filter with more hot water. It should be quite hot (96C~100C) and cover the unit. You may want to check on it... it is a slow dripper.
Step 8: You will need to wait four or five minutes. If you have the set up right, the coffee will filter much slower than even a larger drip coffee maker.
Is Vietnamese coffee sweet? Yes! The Coffee Is Excellent!
But the wait is worth it. The resulting coffee drink is the closest consistency to espresso I've ever come across: it's dark, aromatic, flavorful, thick and delicious.
Vietnamese Coffee is perhaps one of the more localized variations of coffees in Asia. But I highly recommend trying it in a restaurant before you decide whether you like it or not. The first cup I had was great, the second not so good, but the third or fourth cup I was hooked.
Making Vietnamese Style Coffee is particularly easy, but better suited to entertaining or when you have a little extra time to kill. In summer, you can simply pour the sweetened coffee drink onto ice cubes. Since the water's already cooled, you'll have a great ice coffee, sweet and refreshing.
PurelyCoffeeBeans highly recommends making Vietnamese Coffee. I've just finished one as I was writing this! One resource that describes the process well with pictures and shows several different kinds of coffee phins is the How to make Vietnamese Coffee.
There are a lot of links to Amazon for products in this article to give you a flavor of what is available. Please read the disclaimer.