A (brief) History of Vietnamese Coffee

When thinking of coffee most people probably think of brazil, columbia or ethiopia first. But after all, Vietnam today is recognized as the second largest coffee producer in the world after brazil, yet not many people are actually aware of it.

Coffee was introduced to the country by the french during the french colonization in the 19th century and in 1969 the first instant coffee plant was established. After the Vietnam War in 1975 agricultural businesses were collectivized which turned out to be a disaster because production stagnated.

But after a reform in 1986 privately owned enterprises where again permitted and due to close collaboration between producers, growers and government it was possible to increase production and make a big bet on coffee export.

During that period many new companies involved in the coffee industry were established, among them the famous Trung Nguyen Coffee.

Since the 90s Coffee production then grew by 20%-30% every year and today production is highly concentrated in the central highlands of the country where around 80% of all coffee is produced on small to medium sized plantations.

Picture Source: Wikipedia

Picture Source: Wikipedia

What makes vietnamese coffee special?

Vietnamese Coffee is largely consisting of robusta beans. The main difference between arabica and robusta is the caffeine content. Arabica beans contain between 1% to 1.5% caffeine whereas Robusta has between 1.6% to 2.7% caffeine.

Arabica beans also tend to have a higher amount of sugar. More caffeine and a lower sugar content make robusta coffee taste more bitter and therefore less popular.

But what actually makes vietnamese coffee so special is the roasting process. In order to avoid a bitter and burning taste the coffee beans are roasted at low temperature over along period of time to achieve a more consistent coloring throughout the whole bean.

Additionally beans are generally roasted in butter oil and different roasting methods can even include a touch of vanilla or cacao. This leads to a richer flavor and a more intense aroma when brewing fresh coffee ground.

The last thing that gives vietnamese coffee the unique taste, is the sweetened condensed milk which balances out the strong taste of the robusta beans.

The Vietnamese Coffee Culture

Vietnamese coffee is not intended to be consumed on the run. The slow-drip coffee takes an important place in the daily life and reflects the relaxed and laid back Vietnamese culture.

The most common way to drink the strong and flavorful coffee is by mixing it with sweetened condensed milk, because back in the days fresh milk was rare.

In addition to condensed milk, you can also find versions with egg or yoghurt.
A very popular version of vietnamese coffee for hot summer days is the iced coffee (Cafe Sua Da) where the hot coffee is dripping into a tall glass full of ice cubes.