THE VIBRANT WORLD OF COFFEE IN VIETNAM AND SOME SERIOUSLY GOOD CAFES THAT SERVE IT
Looking for the best coffee in Hoi An? Well its all good news! Coffee connoisseurs will not be disappointed in Hoi An. There’s a plethora of cafés to choose from – nestled in hidden gardens, peeking out of attics in the Old Town’s ancient houses, basking in the full splendor of the Thu Bon river – you can have any background for your brew.
Western Style Coffee
Local hipsters get their fix at trendy cafes up winding alley ways, while expats flock to Mia Cafe with it’s wonderful leafy verandas or Dingo Deli to enjoy a taste of home (and a few minutes of peace, having parked their kids in the attached playground). Chat politics at Phin Café’s weekly “Coffee Talks”, take a moments peace from the buzz of the Old Town in Pure Coffee (it’s very good!) or embrace the quiet oasis that is Rosie’s.
Vietnamese Style Coffee
From the small red chair street cafes of the ‘common man’ to the more tortured and artistic haunts of Hoi An’s arty crowd, there are some incredible cafes to sample the vibrant, coffee culture of Vietnam. The art of coffee is not taken lightly here, nor is the strength of each cup. So although it may be tempting to skip around multiple cafés, remember the punch that Vietnamese coffee packs and limit your intake to one or two a day…or at the very least, do as the kids do here and order it “ca phe sua da”, or “iced milk coffee”. Your heart will thank you for it.
Pure Coffee - Coffee by Day, Cocktails by Night
Coffee in Vietnam
Although coffee wasn’t introduced by the French until 1857 Vietnam is now second only to Brazil as the largest exporter in the world.
Only the strong survive
The typical coffee bean grown in Vietnam is the Robusta. Rightly named because it packs a cracking caffeine punch of 2.7%, almost double the 1.5% (Western-preferred) Arabica.
So, if you’ve got high blood pressure, anxiety, gout, gall-stones or you’re one of those pathetic people who start bouncing off walls after drinking one Latte – hold the fort, stay away from Vietnamese coffee!
Cà Phê Cóc
Throughout Vietnam you’ll find coffee shops of all styles, prices and sizes but if you want to see the ‘real’ coffee culture of Vietnam look no further than your street corner.
Along every sidewalk or corner are the ubiquitous Ca Phe Coc street coffee vendors. These are make-shift affairs involving nothing more than a dozen or so tiny, plastic, red chairs and tables precariously perched on the side-walk by some busy road. The seriously good coffee is cheap and the experience: quintessential Vietnam. It’s here Vietnamese – young and old, rich and poor – can smoke, shout, gossip, play cards, street watch or simply get lost in thought and just ‘be themselves’ and er… shout
What Makes a Good Vietnamese Coffee?
Vietnamese coffee is drip coffee made from the very strong Robusta beans (the less strong Arabica is more favoured by Western cultures).
The Vietnamese prefer a thick coffee, often with the viscosity of engine oil.
A good Vietnamese coffee is a short glass you sip, much like you’d sip a fine scotch whiskey.
Always served with cold tea ‘on the side’, you can have it with condensed milk and ice (Café Sua Da) or hot.
The thickly-sweet condensed milk arose as the French couldn’t easily acquire milk; loving all things sweet, the Vietnamese embraced it.
What do the Vietnamese look for in a Cafe?
What Coffee tells you about the Vietnamese Character
Drinking the smaller black, hotter and thicker coffee suggests a more, serious, introverted, ‘harder’ and (usually) older type of person.
In other words, miserable, old people drink Ca Phe Den!
Types of Vietnamese Coffee
Is the quintessential Vietnamese coffee and you will certainly feel alive after knocking back one of these little numbers. There are several variations of drip coffee:
Short, black coffee – hot: “Ca Phe Den – nong”
Short, black coffee – cold: “Ca Phe Den – da”
Short, black coffee with milk – hot: “Ca Phe Sua – nong”
In Vietnamese cafes, coffee is frequently served with a warm yellow-coloured tea (that looks alarmingly like something else). Don’t be put off, ‘Tra Da’ is given as something to have while the coffee drips. It is also a wonderful mouth cleanser between sips of the engine oil in your cup and helps balance out the strong flavor.
Iced Coffee 'Ca Phe Sua Da' - Hanoi Style
Iced coffee is very popular in Hoi An. The Northern version (Hanoi Style) is served as a ‘short’ coffee with condensed milk at the bottom and thick, black coffee dripped over it. Ice (da) is served on the side and you add it to the mix according to your taste.
This comes in a long glass and is either served unmixed or ‘brown’ which means the coffee, milk and ice have already been blended. If you can’t remember the Vietnamese name for this coffee just ask them for ‘Coffee Saigon’ the staff will immediately know what you want. It is absolutely delicious and resembles a strong coffee milkshake.
This coffee has exploded in popularity in recent times and it’s not hard to know why. Maintaining a robust coffee bite, the mix of coconut cream, condensed milk and ice all combine to create a deliciously refreshing, not overly sweet, satisfying blend of coffee with a beautiful coconut aftertaste. This is fast becoming one of our favorite coffee variations (though nothing quite beats a double strength cappuccino).
If you like sweet coffee that is more akin to a milkshake made by a 5 year old who’s been let loose on the sugar bowl, well Egg Coffee is for you. Don’t get on the scales after drinking! Like Coconut Coffee, Egg Coffee originates from Hanoi and is actually not as bad as it sounds (if you like sweet things). It is made by combining coffee, fluffy egg yolk and condensed milk to create a drink more like a frothy ice-cream dessert.
Weasel coffee (Kopi Luwak) is a very expensive, novelty coffee and very popular as a tourist gift. Made from civet dung – what funnier present could you buy for that person back home than ‘shit’ coffee from Vietnam? Before you buy, however, you might like to know a little bit about the dark side to this coffee.