The best coffee in the world?
If you don't like coffee, why are you even bothering to go to Vietnam?
I'm joking, of course. The country is a beautiful, rich, vibrant, and colorful land full of incredible culture, food, and history. But if you are a coffee lover, you have something very exciting to look forward to!
It's been said that Vietnamese coffee is among the best in the world. Vietnam was a part of French Indochina for parts of the 19th and 20th centuries. Saying that colonialism brings with it a few bad things is, of course, an understatement. However, you can't deny that the French left quite an impression on Vietnam. After the French left Vietnam for good, they left behind them hundreds of beautiful Catholic churches and cathedrals, a love of delicious baguettes and fresh-baked bread, and of course, coffee and a thriving European-style cafe culture.
What makes Vietnamese coffee so good?
Why is Vietnamese coffee so famous? Well, it's delicious, and we've got both science and history to thank for that. Vietnam is the world's second-largest exporter of coffee beans (after Brazil). Vietnam grows the Robusta bean, which tends to be stronger and sharper, and higher in caffeine than the slightly more popular and common Arabica bean. This makes a cup of Vietnamese coffee stronger and richer than coffee grown in other parts of the world. The soil and ecology of the Vietnamese highlands also contributes to the country's richer and stronger coffee.
Additionally, Vietnamese coffee is almost always brewed using a phin, a traditional stainless-steel coffee filter that sits on top of a small cup, dripping a heavily-concentrated brew. Phin-brewed coffee is much more highly-concentrated and stronger than French press or peculator coffee, and the flavor is also much stronger and more rich. All of these factors combine to give Vietnamese coffee a distinct strong aroma and rich, slightly bitter taste. Of course, every cup of Vietnamese coffee is usually mixed with sweetened condensed milk at a 7/3 ratio, giving it an additional sweet, rich flavor.
Don't miss these three coffee drinks in Vietnam
Cafe Sua Da: Iced Coffee with Milk
What is Cafe Sua Da?
Cafe Sua Da is the ubiquitous Vietnamese coffee. Phin-dripped ice coffee is served with sweetened condensed milk over ice. This might as well be Vietnam's official national drink! It can be found on literally every street corner, and nobody in the country would dream of starting his or her day without a cup of this strong, sweet, rich brew. During the three months that we stayed in Vietnam, we too took up the tradition of starting our morning with a cup of rich and cold Cafe Sua Da before heading out to explore the city.
Where to get Cafe Sua Da?
Literally everywhere. Seriously! Cafe Sua Da is as common as water in Vietnam, and just as cheap! Every cafe and street-side shop will serve a cup of rich Vietnamese coffee dripped over condensed milk. This drink can be found in every single city and town across the country, and is the standard go-to coffee drink of millions.
How much does Cafe Sua Da cost?
A glass of Cafe Sua Da is cheap - anywhere from 10.000 VND ($0.40) at a small local shop to around 40.000 VND ($1.75) at the priciest upscale cafe.
Cafe Trung: Egg Coffee
What is Cafe Trung?
Cafe Trung, or "Egg Coffee", is a Hanoi specialty. Egg coffee was created way back in 1946 at the Giang Cafe, a Hanoi landmark. During that time, Vietnam was suffering from a shortage of milk, so Mr. Giang, an industrious and creative former bartender, had the idea of mixing a whipped egg yolk into the coffee in its place. The result was Cafe Trung, a rich, sweet, and creamy mix that is much more delicious than it might sound! Cafe Trung tastes almost like a sweet, vanilla milkshake! Give it a try and you won't be disappointed at all! It's equally delicious hot or served over ice.
Where to get Cafe Trung?
You can find Egg Coffee all over Hanoi, but the first place you should try it is at Cafe Giang, the cafe where it all began. Of course, don't miss the fantastic Note Cafe, which serves up a great Egg Coffee alongside an incredible view of Hoan Kiem Lake and the service of awesome and friendly staff.
How much does Cafe Trung cost?
A glass of Cafe Trung is a bit more expensive than Cafe Sua Da, running somewhere around 40.000 VND.
Cafe Muoi: Salt Coffee
What is Cafe Muoi?
Cafe Muoi literally means "Salt Coffee". It's a drink that you can only find in and around Hue, Vietnam's ancient imperial capital. Salt Coffee, though it may sound really strange, is a deliciously sweet and creamy drink. The salt counteracts some of the natural bitterness of the Robusta bean, bringing out the more nuanced and hidden sweet flavors of the coffee. A glass of Cafe Muoi, served as phin coffee dripped over a salty whipped cream, tastes almost like caramel. It's surprisingly sweet and delicious.
Where to get Cafe Muoi?
You can find Salt Coffee all around Hue, but by far the best place to get it is at the original Cafe Muoi, located in the heart of Hue's Old Imperial City.
How much does Cafe Muoi cost?
Cafe Muoi is relatively cheap, only running around 15.000 VND per glass! Don't miss this incredible drink! In fact, it was my favorite coffee drink in all of Vietnam, and that's saying something!
So, what do you think of Vietnamese coffee? Is there an incredible brew that we have missed? Please let us know in the comments below. Please. I'm afraid that my time in Vietnam has made me a little bit addicted to the stuff...