Regional Coffee Guide: Vietnamese Coffee

As we spend more of the day inside our homes during these cold winter months, it’s a perfect time to allow our coffee to transport us to warmer, exotic parts of the world.

If you’re looking to change up your coffee routine and explore a vibrant, exciting culture, Vietnamese coffee can be an excellent place to begin your journey.

Origins of Coffee in Vietnam

Introduced by French colonists during their time in the country, coffee quickly became a cultural jewel in Vietnam. As it’s known by locals, ca phe mixes French roots with Vietnamese flavor, history and culture to mold a unique beverage that separates itself from its European origins.

Following the exit of French influence in the 1900s, Vietnam also developed its own coffee industry, primarily set in the country’s fertile Central Highlands. The growth of coffee production in this area led to a boom of popularity in the mid-20th century, transforming Vietnam into the leading coffee supplier for Southeast Asia.

While the Vietnam War set coffee production on hard times as late as the 1990s, the country’s coffee economy has bounced back strong. With nearly 2.5 million Vietnamese citizens employed in this major industry, it’s little surprise that this delicious variety of Asian coffee is now a staple in shops and cafes worldwide.

What Is Traditional Vietnamese Coffee?

Primarily produced in the highland region of De Lat (also known as the Europe of Vietnam), the vast majority of Vietnamese coffee relies on bitter, highly caffeinated robusta beans.

This type of coffee is excellent for the traditional Vietnamese roasting style, consisting of rice, salt and butter -- which give the beans a distinctly “oily” look and feel. After roasting, it’s common to add other flavors such as coffee and caramel to please all different kinds of coffee drinkers.

What makes this country’s coffee culture genuinely unique, though, are the many ways in which the Vietnamese combine flavorful coffee styles with the influence of other popular drinks and sweet treats.

From yogurt, egg and coconut coffees to a historical mixture of coffee with condensed milk -- which stretches back to the French colonial era when milk was scarce -- Vietnamese coffee perfectly exemplifies the culture’s mix of history and innovation.

Often, Vietnamese coffees are also mixed with ice cubes, adding a refreshing experience to match their robust flavor.

This style can be seen in the internationally beloved Vietnamese iced coffee as well as in other local favorites. A famous example of this is the Vietnamese coffee smoothie (sinh to ca phe), which combines a splash of robusta coffee with exciting mixes of fresh fruit and ice.

What You Need To Make Vietnamese Coffee

Traditionally, the most famous Vietnamese coffee recipes are simple and easy to replicate, even for the inexperienced coffee brewer.

Thanks to Vietnam’s booming coffee export, you can find and create this delicious style of coffee within the comforts of your own home.

Here are the tools and ingredients you will need:

  • 3 Tablespoons of Ground Robusta Coffee Beans: the traditional style used in Vietnamese coffee shops is a medium grind
  • 1-3 Tablespoons of Sweetened, Condensed Milk: great for smoothing out the bitter taste of robusta beans
  • 6-8 Ounces of Boiling Water: the more water you use, the more you can cut down on any bitterness
  • French Press: a great substitute if you don’t have a Vietnamese coffee press
  • Phin: a traditional Vietnamese coffee filter
    • Regular Coffee Filter: if you don’t have a phin in your home, a conventional metal filter will work just fine
  • A Tall Glass: make sure it’s big enough to contain your coffee and milk mixture
  • Another Tall Glass Full of Ice Cubes: the final essential needed for your delicious iced coffee

How To Make Vietnamese Coffee

Now that you have all the tools and ingredients you need, it’s time to brew a delicious cup of Vietnamese iced coffee!

Follow the simple steps below to enjoy a refreshing, energizing cup of Vietnam’s most popular coffee:

  1. Boil 6-8 ounces of water. You can allow your water to cool over the next few steps.
  2. Add 1-3 tablespoons of sweetened, condensed milk to your tall glass. The more you use, the less you will taste the bitter robusta grounds.
  3. Add ice to a separate, tall glass. Just like with milk, more ice will make for a weaker coffee.
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of medium-grind coffee to your press and splash them with a teaspoon of warm water. Make sure the press is screwed on tight.
  5. Place your glass of condensed milk below your press’ filter. Make sure there is enough room for the coffee and milk to mix without overflowing.
  6. Pour 6-8 ounces of your boiling water into the press.
  7. Allow the coffee to drip through the filter for 3-5 minutes. If the coffee drips into your glass too slowly or quickly, feel free to adjust as you like.
  8. After brewing, stir your coffee and milk together until evenly distributed.
  9. Pour mixture over your glass of ice and enjoy!

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