Unique Vietnamese Coffee Styles You Should Try
Coffee makes the world go round. Or at least it allows it to function. And while there are plenty of coffee destinations — Seattle, Colombia, Italy — there is one place that doesn't get the attention it deserves: Vietnam.
If you've had Vietnamese coffee and have good taste, you're probably nodding your head in agreement. But if you've never heard of this wonder, get ready to embark on an information journey that will have you booking flights to Vietnam.
These are five Vietnamese coffee styles you definitely have a try.
Vietnamese Coffee Culture
Many people underestimate just how important coffee is to Vietnamese culture. The country's relationship with the drink began under French colonization, which lasted from 1858 to 1954. The Europeans brought over coffee plantations, taking advantage of the cheaper labor and restricted rights locals were granted. They also imposed a strong cafe culture, particularly in important centers like Hanoi and Ho Chi Mihn (then, Saigon).
Both traditions have persisted. Vietnam now has one of the highest coffee yields in the world. And you'll still find cafes throughout the city. But far from offering the types of coffee you'd find in Parisian cafes, Vietnam has taken the tradition and completely made it its own. Unusual ingredients include egg whites, yogurt and even beans that have been pooped by ferrets.
Many of Vietnam's unique styles of coffee arose out of necessity, either from the prohibitions of colonialism or the scarcity of war. Today, the country's cafe scene is unlike that of anywhere else in the world.
1. Vietnamese Egg Coffee
Mention to people that you're going to Hanoi and there's one thing everyone recommends: egg coffee.
The unusual brew came about due to a milk shortage during the First Indochina War in 1946. At the time, people in Vietnam were not used to black coffee, so Nguyen Van Giang, who worked at a luxury hotel in Hanoi had to get creative and used whisked egg yolk instead.
Guests loved the invention so much that Nguyen ended up opening his own place, Cafe Giang. When in the city, definitely plan a stop there.
The coffee is very thick and sweet. Besides whisked egg yolk and Robusta, condensed milk and sugar are usually added. It is the definition of a liquid dessert. Don't be surprised when you get your delicious coffee with a spoon and a glass of water on the side.
2. Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Perhaps the most widely available internationally, Vietnamese iced coffee is also pretty popular.
The delicious brew is made with a special metal filter called phin (or Vietnamese press). Beans from the country make for a stronger, more bitter coffee. To counteract that, condensed milk is added to the bottom of the cup before the slow-dripped brew is added on top of it.
You are certainly welcome to have it hot, but many people love it even more when it's iced. For this, the contents of the original cup are transferred to a second one that is already filled with ice.
Refreshing and delicious, this drink is perfect for hot summer days.
3. Civet Poop Coffee
We're not joking about this. An extremely popular Vietnamese coffee type is cut chon, and it is made with civet poop. It's also the most expensive coffee in the entire world.
Who? What? Why? How?
Yes, that's everyone's reaction. The, erm, interesting type of coffee is a result of colonialism. Although Europeans employed local people to work cheaply as farmhands, they weren't allowed to take beans. And coffee was much too expensive for laborers to be able to afford it.
The story says that one worker saw a civet — a mongoose-like mammal — leave behind coffee beans in its droppings. Hungry and curious about the crop that was changing the landscape of his country, he took it to his home in secret, washed it and then brewed it. He realized that its taste was very soft and, eventually, the word spread around.
After a while, an entire industry developed around this civet poop coffee. Science actually backs it up. First, civets are bean snobs and only pick ripe fruits, unlike error-prone humans. Then, their digestive system ferments the fruit and makes it less acidic and bitter.
Other Asian countries also have civet poop coffee. It's strongly associated with Indonesia, where it's known as kopi luwak.
A cup of this kind of joe can set you back up to $100 a cup. Is it worth it? We'll let you decide.
4. Vietnamese Coconut Milk Coffee
If you visit Vietnam, don't you even dare think about going to Starbucks. Instead, go to Cong Caphe.
The Vietnamese-owned chain coffee shop has an incredibly creative menu that has provided some of the best coffee experiences in our entire life. Case in point: coconut milk coffee.
You've probably noticed by now that the country likes to sweeten the heck out of its bitter coffee. And coconut milk is the magic ingredient we would've never thought to use. The result is a coffee that's thick without being overly sticky, and sweet without being overwhelming. It's actually fairly refreshing and oh, so so delicious.
Cong Caphe isn't the only place in the country where you can find this gift from the coffee heavens. But since you'll definitely see a store at some point during your trip, the most effective way to make sure you don't miss out on it is to get it here.
5. Vietnamese Yogurt Coffee
Our final pick for must-try drinks is Vietnamese yogurt coffee. Milk and creamer are simply too cliché for this wonderful country, so it pushes the boundaries to go where the rest of the unimaginative world dare not go.
Like coconut milk, yogurt adds a wonderful contrast to the strong flavor of Robusta coffee. It counteracts the bitterness with tartness, which somehow translates into sweetness. (OK, some sugar is probably added). The result is also refreshing, creamy goodness that makes you realize everyone else is doing coffee wrong.
These are not by any means the only types of unique coffees you'll find in Vietnam. But start with them, and once your mind has been opened up to the possibilities, keep exploring the country's incredible but underrated coffee culture.