Calling all coffee lovers and caffeine addicts! We know Vietnam for many things. Vietnam would not be the same without its universal love for the caffeinated drink.

Coffee filtered the traditional way, using a phin.
Image by Flickr
Coffee filtered the traditional way, using a phin.
Image by Flickr

A Unique Coffee Culture

Like many places in the world, the Vietnamese know wonderful coffee and their coffee culture reflects their love for the drink. Coffee is deeply woven into the social and economic fabric of Vietnam, with coffee shops on every corner. Affectionately nicknamed by locals as ‘rocket fuel’, Vietnamese coffee has a strong kick and is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

When you visit Vietnam, you will trade in your flat whites, espressos and lattes for a much more slow-paced version of coffee. Coffee, or ca phe sua da, is traditionally brewed using a small filter called a phin, which filters and presses the ground coffee until it drips into your cup.  It may seem like a torturous process, especially if it’s your first cup of the day, but the slow drip method acts as a reminder to slow down, which is especially welcome in the bustling Vietnamese cities.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

While we enjoy a traditional coffee hot, the Vietnamese have popularised the colder version: ca phe sua da, iced coffee. You can order any kind of coffee cold. It’s often the popular choice, as it is much more enjoyable in their humid climate.

They brew the coffee much the same way as the hot version but differ significantly from the iced coffee you know. The secret ingredient to its more-ish taste is condensed milk. Replacing your milk/mylk of choice, condensed milk gives the bitter coffee a sweet kick.

Locals will give you a cold hard stare if you ask for coffee without a layer of the sweet stuff, and instead, they may just add tons of unwanted sugar. Therefore, it’s best to drink it like the locals do, and keep things uncomplicated.

The Vietnamese have created various ways to enjoy iced coffee and combined it with other frozen dessert foods, creating drinks like yogurt coffee and coconut ice coffee. Vietnamese iced-coffee is gaining global popularity for coffee lovers and vegans alike.

Starbucks Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe.
Video by Starbucks

Make your own Vietnamese iced coffee at home using this recipe from Starbucks.

Vietnamese Coconut Coffee

A coconut ice coffee.
A Vietnamese coconut ice coffee.
Photo by Robyn Palmer

A unique and spectacular creation. The coconut iced coffee is at its core, a version of the Italian Affogato, espresso over gelato or ice-cream. This version uses a sorbet created with coconut milk, served Affogato style, with a shot of warm coffee poured over.

Typically served with a spoon and a straw, the warm coffee slowly melts the coconut concoction, making it just runny enough, after a few bites, to mix and drink through a straw. Once you try one, it will be your favorite afternoon pick me up treat while in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

An egg coffee from Cafe Giang, the best cafe to try one in Hanoi, Northern Vietnam.
An egg coffee from Cafe Giang, the best cafe to try one in Hanoi, Northern Vietnam.
Image from WhatsUpVietnam.com

A delicacy, and unlike anything you have ever tasted before, the Egg coffee is traditional to Hanoi, Northern Vietnam. A dairy shortage in 1946 inspired Nguyen Van Giang to substitute milk in coffee with a whisked egg, creating a frothy drink that tastes something like a liquidized tiramisu.

Often considered a desert, this coffee treat is native to Hanoi, so be sure to have one (or two) while there.

Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee

Kopi luwak is a coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a civet. Yes, that right. A civet poops coffee beans, which is then ground and made into a cup of coffee.

Labeled the most expensive coffee in the world, a cup retails for a whopping $80. This is a coffee that intrigues even the most sophisticated coffee lovers, and those who are fortunate enough to afford a cup, say it’s worth the hype.

The ethics behind the coffee and how it is sourced is debatable. Be sure to check the farm where you try this coffee out (if you can afford it) is sourcing their beans ethically and in line with local policies and regulations.

A Way of Life

If you’re keen to take the unique taste of Vietnamese coffee home with you, be sure to buy a phin, which you can get from any local shop. Recreating the original taste will be tricky, but you can brew any coffee in a phin, making it a very versatile tool, especially for weekends away or camping trips, and it is lightweight and small enough to travel with.

The best way to enjoy Vietnamese coffee, however, is while you are there. No matter the time of day, there is always an aroma of coffee filtering through the busy streets. You can’t ignore coffee’s importance to the Vietnamese way of life. When you are next in Vietnam, make sure you’ve set aside some time just for delving into the local coffee culture, which often differs from region to region.


Which of these coffees would you like to try out the best? Let us know in the coffee down below!

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