Vietnamese Coffee - An Introduction

This is why I’m an amateur.

While sitting in Ho Chi Minh’s brutal heat in the south of Vietnam, I ordered my first Vietnamese coffee. What landed before me was a seemingly homemade pour over coffee. The pour over gear was different but looked as if it would do a similar job as a V60.

Awesome, I think! Vietnam really has their coffee game down. After letting the coffee drip into my cup, I smelled it.

Smells strong.

I proceed with a smile on my face and I take a big sip.

And then I did something to similar to this with my face.

Turns out, Vietnamese coffee doesn’t really taste like North America’s coffee at all.

What is Vietnamese Coffee?

Vietnamese coffee is almost always brewed with a different type of coffee bean called Robusta. Compared to the beans we’re use to (Arabica), these beans have almost twice the amount of caffeine (which leads to a more bitter taste) and half the amount of sugar and fat. As if that wasn’t enough, the Vietnamese traditionally roast their beans darker.

Furthermore, the brewing technique isn’t the same as our traditional pour over. They used a coffee maker known as phin. This brewing method allows for a slower drip resulting in a stronger cup of joe.

Now I know why the first sip tasted like a mix of asphalt and burnt rubber.

The Phin - Credit: Coffee S

The trick to drinking it

Some people (well, mostly Vietnamese people) swear by a straight Vietnamese coffee. For the rest of us to enjoy it, a few simple modifications can transform this experience into a pleasant one. 

1. You can dilute with water 

In my case, that did the drink and allowed me to taste the distinctive Robusta flavour (which now didn’t seem so bad). 

2. Vietnamese often comes with a small side of condense milk

Adding this transforms the coffee into a surprisingly sweet drink. This is often referred to ca phe nau (brown coffee) in the north of Vietnam and ca phe sua (milk coffee) in the south of Vietnam.

3. Recipes and Vietnamese Iced Coffee

To say that Vietnamese coffee industry is booming would be quite the understatement. They are now the second biggest coffee exporters in the world (right behind Brazil). I have never, ever seen so many coffee shops.

Most of them offer a wide variety of drinks. These include coffee smoothies, yogurt coffee and the now famous Vietnamese Iced Coffee (which consist of Vietnamese coffee, crushed ice and condensed milk). It’s a surprisingly refreshing and delicious drink.

There are many ways to enjoy Vietnamese's Robusta beans and they're all worth a try.

Don’t be scared

I often thought of coffee as a ubiquitous and somewhat standard drink across the world. As usual, turns out I was wrong. Although regular Vietnamese coffee might be hard to find in your corner of the world, I’m convince you can find a place to try an exquisite Vietnamese Iced Coffee.

Or... you could just try making some at home. Even with regular Arabica beans, I bet you’ll impress the socks off your guests with something different than your afternoon mojito. Just google “Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe” and start experimenting. I know I will.

Credit: Bon Appétit Iced Coffee Recipe

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