Vietnam Coffee History And How To Brew Your Own – There is no doubt that Vietnam’s coffee culture is an integral aspect of daily life and offers more than just a quick boost of energy to get through a hard day at work or school.
It is astonishing to think that coffee was practically nonexistent in Vietnam at the turn of the 20th century. Instead, there was a long-standing history of tea drinking throughout the nation, similar to their Chinese neighbours to the north.
Moving forward to the year 2000, Vietnam is currently ranked second in global coffee exports (after Brazil).
Vietnam’s ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk), in addition to national specialities like pho (noodle soup) and banh mi (baguette sandwich), is rising in popularity worldwide.
Vietnam coffee history
A French Catholic priest hoping to start a modest business brought an Arabica tree to northern Vietnam in 1857, which is considered the year that coffee was first introduced.
Despite his practical efforts, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the Robusta bean reached the country’s central highlands, where the region’s climate and soil offer the best conditions for growing coffee.
Plantations began to appear all over Dak Lak province and the neighbouring areas, leading to a business boom during the ensuing decades.
But the ‘Doi Moi‘ economic changes of 1987, which significantly opened the country for commerce, were what drove Vietnam into the global arena of the coffee industry.
Soon after, Vietnam would surpass Columbia to take over as the second-largest coffee exporter in the world.
Vietnam exports more than 1,650,000 metric tons of coffee annually, or 20% of the world’s total production (and 40% of the world’s Robusta beans).
Not including the staff of the tens of thousands of coffee shops around the nation, an estimated 3 million people rely on the agricultural coffee sector.
Condensed milk as a substitute
Of course, it’s important to remember where condensed milk, the other component of ca phe sua da, came from.
French nationals living in Vietnam had to import dairy from their home country because it was (and arguably still is) almost nonexistent in Southeast Asian cuisine.
It isn’t easy to transport vast amounts of fresh milk due to its enormous volume and short shelf life.
Removing the water from cow’s milk solves both of the abovementioned issues, leaving behind a thick and heavily sweetened liquid that can travel long distances and be kept for a long time.
And as luck would have it, the robust Robusta flavours of Vietnamese coffee are perfectly balanced by the sweetness of sweetened condensed milk.
Drip coffee styles and the signature “Ca phe sua da“
Robusta makes over 97% of all Vietnamese bean production and is used to make the nation’s well-known drip coffee. In addition to having a more robust flavour than Arabica, Robusta has approximately twice as much caffeine (roughly 2.7% vs 1.5%).
As a result, Vietnamese drip coffee is renowned for putting the “robust” in Robusta and is sometimes compared to rocket fuel by novice drinkers.
A single-serving Vietnamese coffee press called a phin is used to make coffee. The phin, a container filled with coffee grounds, is placed atop a glass of water.
The coffee grinds are covered with hot water, which allows the coffee flavour to slowly “drip” into the glass over a while.
Vietnamese people often order coffee + [black/milk] + [hot/iced] when placing a coffee order.
For instance, “ca phe den nong” means “coffee + black + hot (hot black coffee),” whereas “ca phe sua da“ directly translates to “coffee + milk + ice” (iced coffee with milk).
The former, ca phe sua da, is unquestionably a favourite among foreign visitors to Vietnam and is quickly gaining popularity globally. Ice keeps travellers cool in the blazing heat, while condensed milk is chosen for its smoother flavour.
Additionally, there are several other types of coffee than the standard drip, such as coconut coffee, “weasel coffee” and egg coffee (which we will cover in a future article).
Making Vietnamese drip coffee
Vietnamese coffee may be prepared anywhere in the world as long as one can locate the ingredients, albeit it does need some patience to wait for the dripping process.
Ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk) ingredients for home brewing include
- Vietnamese coffee grounds
- Any canned brand of sweetened condensed milk from the supermarket will do.
- Coffee press (phin) in Vietnam: Coffee presses are reasonably priced and can be purchased online or in an Asian market, similar to coffee grounds. They come in a set of four (plate, cup, press, and lid), are washed by machine, and are reusable.
Prepare for a single serving
- Espresso grounds: two tablespoons.
- 1-2 teaspoons of condensed milk, to taste
- Water to boil: 150–250 ml (6-8 oz.)
- Ice-filled glass
- Fill the glass’s bottom with condensed milk. To alter the sweetness levels, you can start with a lower quantity (1 Tbsp) and add more afterwards.
- Over the glass rim, place the plate or bottom filter. After that, place the container on top of the cup/upper filter.
- Coffee grounds should be put in the filter. On top of the settings, carefully place (or screw) the circular press.
- Pour just a tiny amount of boiling water into the filter. As a result, the beans might enlarge and release C02. After around 30 seconds, top off the filter with hot water, secure the lid, and wait for about 5 minutes, or until the water stops dripping. (If you want to dilute the coffee further, pour additional water into the filter and continue dripping.)
- Remove the filter, and then use a spoon to stir the mixture.
- Serve after pouring over ice.