If you’re visiting Vietnam for the first time, you have to try Vietnamese coffee. It is unlike any other you have tried, anywhere else in the world, i promise.

The Basics

Coffee Plantation

Coffee Plantation

Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French colonialists in the 1800s and grew rapidly to become the 2nd most exported commodity in Vietnam, second only to rice. Coffee production in Vietnam is mostly made up of Robusta beans, the more bitter variety with stronger taste and a more rough texture compared to its Arabica counterpart. Seems like the Vietnamese really know how to make use of their advantage, and turned this supposed ‘disadvantage’ into a striking quality that people love. Vietnamese is the strongest coffee I’ve ever tried and the smoky taste that comes with it really reminds me of smoked meat, in a really delicious way. That aroma hits the roof of your nasal passage like no other while the thick liquid seduces your tongue and throat into gasping for more.

The Roast

coffee-beans-691262_1280

Vietnamese Coffee Roast

While Westerners would call it a dark French roast, probably what it originated from, it is quite different from it, and the westerners just have no better name for this unique type of roast. So we shall call it the Vietnamese roast! It is truly like no other. You would realize that the Vietnamese roasts are especially dark, roasted slow and long to ensure that it gives a thick aroma but not burnt. It is commonly roasted with butter and some sugar, something entirely unheard of in the West and considered a blasphemy in Italy. But it is now easily the strongest, smokiest and thickest coffee ever, turning their robusta disadvantage into its advantage.

The Brew

Vietnamese Coffee filter - The Phin Filter

Vietnamese Coffee filter – The Phin Filter

Interestingly, there’s also only one way to do the brew. The traditional Phin metal filter is used to brew Vietnamese coffee. A grind similar to the French press is used and coffee drips out, drop by drop, right into your cup. You serve it with the filter right on top, preferably in a glass so you can enjoy the dripping process happening right before you.

Ways to drink

Here’s where the Viets branch out from the single method into multiple ways. You can drink it in a variety of ways:

  • Black
  • Black with ice
  • With sweet condensed milk
  • With Sweet Condensed milk & ice
Vietnamese coffee styles

Many ways to drink it

An even more interesting way involves eggs! They beat egg yolks together with sweet condensed milk into a light froth and top it on black coffee for a smooth textured sweet experience that is totally out of this world. Each type has its own unique taste and attractiveness and you’d choose based on how you’re feeling then.

Cafes

Vietnamese street cafes

Vietnamese street cafes by Haisontra

Even with the invasion of international coffee chains, no one beats the Vietnamese on their own turf. A number of local Vietnamese chains still stand tall, and everywhere in the city there are traditional coffee houses with little low stools in atmospheric little shophouses calling out to the coffee addict in you. Everywhere in Vietnam you can find great coffee at great prices. If you’re heading to Hanoi, check out our guide to the best cafes in Hanoi!

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Anil likes devouring copious amounts of Pho Cuon in Hanoi, Momos in Kathmandu and Kachoris in Udaipur. When not eating, you will find him bungy jumping off bridges or listening to talks by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Alan Watts.