Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the 19th century. And although Vietnamese coffee can be considered obscure, the country is actually the second largest coffee producer in the world. Vietnam happens to have an ideal topography for growing various species of coffee including Robusta, Arabica, Catimor, and Excelsa. Thus, there’s more freedom to play around and come up with a broader range of flavors, textures, and aromas.
The Vietnamese coffee culture is not one to be dismissed so easily. Even though the Vietnamese coffee style can also be observed in other Southeast Asian countries, the Vietnamese have embraced it so enthusiastically that it has become a part of who they are.
Here are some interesting facts about Vietnamese coffee and the coffee drinking culture of Vietnam:
1. It is a big part of the people’s morning ritual before going to work. Walking the streets of Vietnam early in the morning, one will find the locals settled on little chairs on the sidewalks enjoying coffee while reading the paper or just chatting with friends.
2. Vietnamese coffee is brewed using a phin (a single-serving metal filter) and drips right into a glass. This makes for a darker, bolder, and richer coffee. The ideal brewing time is four to five minutes.
3. Coffee is usually served while still brewing. It is meant to be enjoyed at leisure, never in a rush. Part of the experience is seeing the coffee slowly drip into a clear glass.
4. People used condensed milk as sweetener since fresh milk was difficult to find back in the day. They still do so today. Condensed milk is poured into the glass before starting the brewing process.
5. The phin is removed once brewing is complete. The coffee and condensed milk are then stirred to combine. This can be enjoyed immediately for that delicious hot Vietnamese coffee (cà phê). Otherwise, it is poured into a tall glass of ice for the iced coffee version (cà phê su’a dá).
6. Vietnamese coffee is almost always served with tea.
7. The coffee drinking culture of Vietnam can vary across regions, age, and social status.