Following our recent publication on Vietnam’s tea culture, we are excited to share with you this extensive guide on Vietnam’s coffee culture. Discover insider knowledge of the production regions, coffee drinking customs per region, and some fun facts and figures.
Tracing the Vietnam Coffee Trail
Coffee production is concentrated in just a dozen countries over the world, including Vietnam. What makes a place suitable for growing coffee? First, it has to be at least 600 meters above sea level. Then, factors like climate, wind, topography, soil, and local knowhow greatly affect the bean’s development. In Vietnam, coffee is grown in the highlands across the country. In the map below you can see where the Arabica (green) and Robusta (Brown) production regions are located.
Son La Province
The cold plateau climate, heavy rainfall, and a semi-dry season are what help Arabica coffee to flourish. Some even believe that Son La has a similar location to Brazil’s major coffee region Minas Gerais.
Nowadays, Son La only comes second in Arabica coffee production in Vietnam.
Tay Nguyen – The Coffee Capital
If you ask a Vietnamese where the country’s coffee capital is, he probably tells you about Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands). This is a region where most of Vietnam’s plateaus are. Hence, the highland climate is best to grow coffee here.
Buon Me Thuot City
If the Central Highlands is the nation’s coffee capital, Buon Me Thuot city is its heart. The city is not only the biggest plateau in Vietnam but also one of the largest Robusta coffee growing areas in the world.
Photo credit: vnexpress.net
Lam Dong Province
The highlands in Lam Dong are famous for both tea and coffee. And Cau Dat-Dalat is the first to name. Many see Dalat as ‘Vietnam’s city of love’, but it is also the nation’s best Arabica coffee growing area.
Coffee Drinking Customs by Regions
How Do Vietnamese Enjoy Coffee in the North?
The northern people, Hanoians in particular, love ‘brown’ coffee (black coffee with added condensed milk). It is what makes Hanoi coffee culture iconic. People of all ages, young and old, sit next to each other and enjoy ca phe phin (drip coffee). They would chit chat, share a laugh, even a chess game,…
Hanoians know true to their hearts that there is no rushing to the drip coffee. The wait is worth it. And this enjoyment is everyone’s little pleasure.
How Do Central Vietnamese Enjoy Coffee?
The coffee culture in the Central echoes the locals’ demeanor. People in the center tend to take things slow and savor the pace. Take Hue city for example. The way of drinking coffee here is encapsulated in three words: dark, delicate, and slow. People would find a good coffee shop and seek relaxation in drinking coffee. And thus, each sip tastes better than the last. Creamy, sweet, bitter – all flavors come together for a good among friends.
How Do Vietnamese Enjoy Coffee in the South?
Unlike the other regions, people in the south lead a faster life. The bustling and hustling make people want more convenience. That, of course, includes their coffee. In particular, people in Ho Chi Minh City love takeaway coffee. They also adore bac xiu, or white coffee. Unlike drip coffee, white coffee has lots of milk with a little bit of coffee. About the name, it is an abbreviation of the full name in Mandarin Chinese. And thanks to the Chinese community in Saigon, bac xiu has become popular nationwide.
But, make no mistakes when ordering, milk coffee and white coffee are two different things.
Ca Phe Vot (Saigon Nel Drip Coffee)
This is a true gem of the coffee culture in Ho Chi Minh city. Back in the old days, when paper coffee filters weren’t a thing, people used a flannel drip to filter the coffee. This brewing method requires more meticulous attention than the paper filters. It takes many steps to create a cup of coffee, but in turn, the rich coffee flavor is preserved.
How Do Vietnamese in the West Enjoy Coffee?
People from western Vietnam (or Mekong Delta) have quite similar taste as southerners. They both love their sweet coffee. Indeed, a cup of coffee here has so much milk that it may discourage you from drinking. The region is also famous for its coconut forests, which explains why people prefer coconut cream in their coffee.
How Does the New Generation in Vietnam Enjoy Coffee Now?
It is no longer đen đá không đường (‘iced, black, no sugar’). Vietnamese youngsters have more than traditional coffee drinks to enjoy. Thanks to globalization, they began to expand their drinking profiles with cool new coffee trends. To name a few, there is ‘cold brew’, ‘iced drip’, ‘nitro cold brew’, and more. Due to the hot weather, the young love to drink chilled coffee, which helps to popularize the cold-brewed. They can drink it whole or water it down with ice without losing the coffee aroma.
3 Fun Facts About Vietnamese Coffee
How much coffee do Vietnamese drink per year?
Vietnamese consume 17 billion cups of coffee annually. Given a population of 95 million, that’s an incredible 170 cups per person per year!
What is the most loved coffee drink in Vietnam?
The egg coffee may be famous among tourists but it is ca phe phin (filter coffee) that tops it all.
Is Starbucks the no.1 coffee chain in Vietnam?
Not at all. Starbucks’s global empire can’t make it the ‘nation’s coffee drink’ in Vietnam. Like in Italy, Vietnam’s coffee scene is dominated by small coffee shops that you can easily find around every corner. Reasonably-priced and delicious are what bring them huge success.