Most people will be aware that Vietnam is a major coffee producer, but some might be surprised to learn that it is the world’s second-largest exporter of beans, with only Brazil exporting more.
Here’s our guide to the best Vietnamese coffee brands.
Our Top Recommended
A brief history of coffee in Vietnam
Coffee was first brought to Vietnam in 1857 during the French colonial period. At first, it was grown for the French who lived in Vietnam, but before long, the local population began to adopt a coffee-drinking habit too.
In the following years, coffee production continued to grow, with the main area of cultivation being the region around Buôn Ma Thuột in the Central Highlands.
Production was interrupted during the American War; although the area of Buôn Ma Thuột saw little fighting, its location in the center of the country sandwiched between the North and South saw many people leave the area.
After the war, production rebounded, and by the late 90s, the country had claimed the second spot on the list of the world’s largest coffee producers. In the Vietnamese economy, coffee exports are now second in importance only to rice (1).
The Vietnamese coffee crop and problems faced by farmers
Although Vietnam produces a huge amount of coffee annually, often exceeding one million tons, the vast majority of this is the less refined robusta bean. Around 95% or more of the annual harvest is robusta, making Vietnam by far the world’s largest producer of these beans.
Robusta plants are easier to grow, produce more beans and are more tolerant of less favorable growing conditions but are not as highly sought-after as the more delicate arabica bean.
Efforts are now being made to increase the output of arabica, but for the moment, robusta still dominates in Vietnam.
Farmers in Vietnam also face certain challenges. As well as the threat of climate change that is beginning to cause problems for growers worldwide, many of the coffee trees in Vietnam are old and reaching the end of their productive lifespan.
This means a systematic program of replanting will need to be implemented in order to keep the industry in the country viable.
Coffee culture in Vietnam
The French may have introduced coffee to their former colony, but the Vietnamese took it and turned it into something of their own.
Vietnam is a country with a strong and unique coffee culture that is an integral part of daily life, and you won’t have to walk far in Hanoi or Ho Chi Min City (or Saigon as the locals still call it) to find a coffee shop filled with friendly locals enjoying a cup.
If you visit the country, there are two things you have to try before you leave. One is the now world-famous phở, the delicious bowl of beef noodle soup that is practically the national dish. The second, of course, is Vietnamese coffee, called cà phê in Vietnamese.
Vietnamese coffee is made with something called a phin, the distinctive filter used for making drip coffee. Since the beans used are the typically bitter robusta, the coffee is often sweetened using condensed milk – which keeps far better than fresh milk in the hot tropical climate.
The resulting brew is a deliciously thick, sweet drink that is consumed hot or – unsurprisingly, given the temperatures in Vietnam – over ice.
Another local specialty is cà phê trúng, egg coffee – don’t forget to try it if you have the chance!
How to make Vietnamese cà phê sữa (Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk)
To make a delicious cup of Vietnamese-style milk coffee, you will need a phin and some medium-coarse ground coffee. Any coffee will do but, of course, you will achieve the best results using genuine Vietnamese coffee beans.
Put about three large teaspoons of Vietnamese coffee into the phin, tap the phin a couple of times on your work surface to make sure it is evenly spread out and press down gently with the insert designed for this purpose.
Pour the required amount of condensed milk into a glass; two teaspoons should be enough. Place the phin over the glass and pour in enough water to allow the coffee to swell. Once the water has been absorbed, pour in the rest of the water, put the lid on and wait for the coffee to drip through.
When the coffee has all dripped through, it’s ready. Stir and enjoy!
Here’s a tip: the dripping process is slow, and by the time the coffee has dripped through and been mixed with the condensed milk, you may well find your coffee is cold. This might not be such a bad thing in the heat of a Vietnamese afternoon, but it’s not so great if you prefer hot coffee.
To solve the problem, simply place your glass in a bowl of hot water while you wait for the coffee to be ready. That way, when you come to drink it, the water will have kept it hot, just the way you prefer!
Check out this great video that shows you just how it’s done.
The best Vietnamese coffee brands currently on the market - 2018 reviews
If you are interested in trying Vietnamese coffee – or if you’ve tried it before and you want to know which one to buy – here’s our list of the top five Vietnamese coffee brands you should look for.
1. Trung Nguyen Vietnamese coffee (Our Top Recommended)
If you travel to Vietnam, there is one brand of coffee you will see everywhere.
The ubiquitous Trung Nguyen brand is as close as you will come to find a “standard” Vietnamese coffee, and the company has been in existence since 1996.
This coffee features a delicious aroma and flavor. It is slightly lighter than French roast and is smooth with low acidity.
This coffee is a blend of arabica, robusta, Excelsa and Catimor. It is ground to the ideal coarseness for making traditional Vietnamese-style coffee.
2. Trung Nguyen Gourmet Blend
Another product from the Trung Nguyen brand, this time a higher-quality coffee that is sold as whole beans.
This coffee is also a blend of arabica, robusta, Excelsa, and Catimor. The beans are noticeably oily – which helps them retain more flavor.
Tasting notes describe a coffee that is rich in flavor with chocolatey tones and medium caffeine.
This is perhaps not a coffee that you would find in the average rustic coffee shop on the streets of Hanoi, but it is certainly one you can appreciate from the comfort of your own home.
3. Chestbrew Strong Dark Roast Vietnamese Coffee
For those looking for premium-quality coffee from Vietnam rather than standard traditional Vietnamese-style coffee, this could be a good pick.
This company prides itself on helping the farmers who grow their coffee. The beans are roasted in one of the most hi-tech facilities in Southeast Asia.
Coffee made from these beans is described as strong and smooth with an exotic flavor.
These beans are dark-roast 100% single-origin arabica and are ideal for cold brew, Vietnamese-style hot or iced coffee, or regular hot-brewed coffee.
4. Vinacafe Instant Coffee Mix
Instant coffee is also popular in Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia, and if you want to try an authentic version of what they drink over there, this Vinacafe instant mix could be a good pick.
This is a typical Southeast Asian three-in-one coffee mix, meaning the sugar and creamer are already included.
All you have to do is add hot water to make a sweet and delicious coffee drink. Highly practical when at home or when traveling.
5. Dalat Peaberry Robusta Coffee
This peaberry coffee is from Đà Lạt, a city to the south of Buôn Ma Thuột and gateway to the southern Central Highlands.
These robusta beans are perfect for making Vietnamese-style coffee or espresso.
These peaberry beans are high in caffeine and display a high body, a low acidity and a smooth finish with notes of chocolate.
Recommended Vietnamese phin
If you want to make Vietnamese-style coffee at home, you will need a phin. This one is the traditional type that you will find in coffee shops all over Vietnam any time you order a brew.
This high-quality Stainless Steel phin is 100% dishwasher safe. It is made to last and you will be using it to make your Vietnamese coffee for years to come.
Related Post: Best Coffee for Acid Reflux – Top 5 Picks
A delicious and unique style of coffee
With spoons of added condensed milk, perhaps Vietnamese-style coffee is a little unrefined for coffee purists. This type of coffee is a sweet and delicious treat that may not be to everyone’s liking – but we think Vietnamese coffee is delicious, as long as we drink it in moderation!
However, Vietnam is no longer just about the traditional robustas. More and more arabicas are also likely to appear in the coming years as the country moves toward growing more coffee aimed at the gourmet market. Watch this space and we’ll do our best to keep you informed!
Do you enjoy Vietnamese coffee? Do you have a phin at home? Do you prefer it black or with condensed milk? Hot or on ice? If you have anything to add, please leave us a comment – we always love hearing from you. And if you enjoyed the article, please don’t forget to share!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.