The Perfect Cup of Coffee in Vietnam

by Mark Wiens on August 8, 2011 · 22 comments

Hanoi Coffee Shops

Hanoi Coffee Shops

Once upon a time, coffee wasn’t a part of Vietnam. Coffee in Vietnam was introduced by the French during their period of colonization. Along with crusty loaves of bread, sweet pastries and creamy pâté, coffee remained after the country gained independence, and began to integrate itself into the Vietnamese culture.

Traveling to Vietnam, you will be immersed in a coffee culture that appears to have been there forever.

The highland areas of Vietnam offer an ideal climate and elevation for the cultivation of coffee beans. For this reason there is a diverse range of coffee species that are produced – each bringing offering a unique savoring taste.

Nowadays, coffee is one of Vietnam’s biggest exports and they are second only to Brazil in world coffee production.

The Roasting

After harvesting, coffee beans in Vietnam are often roasted dark. They are not quickly blackened, but slowly roasted over low heat for a long period of time.

This roasting technique, as well as the way the coffee is brewed, is integral to the full bodied flavor that Vietnamese coffee is so famous for.

Brewing Coffee

Brewing Coffee

The Brewing

One of the most popular ways to brew a cup of coffee in Vietnam is using a very simple, single-cup gravity drip system. The device starts off with a metal cup that has tiny holes at the bottom.

Ground coffee is placed on the bottom of the cup and pushed down with a small circular piece that fits within the cup. The metal cup is placed over a real coffee cup and hot water is poured into the metal device.

Most likely, when you order a cup of coffee in Vietnam, it will be served this way.

Ca phe sua da

Ca phe sua da

What kind of coffee should I drink in Vietnam?

  • Ca phe sua da – One of the most popular brews, especially when taking a break from the intense rays of the sun, is black coffee mixed with a dose of sweetened condensed milk and served on cubes of ice. The result is a rich chocolatey blend.
  • Ca phe sua nong – Identical to the brew mentioned above, except this variation is served hot.
  • Ca phe den nong – To get the real sense of Vietnamese coffee try a cup of robust pitch black coffee devoid of any additives.

Ca phe chon (Weasel Coffee) – Have you heard of “poop coffee?” This gourmet coffee which is similar to kopi luwak in Indonesia (though from a civet cat) is among the priciest beans in the world.

Essentially coffee beans are fed to weasels who fail to digest them and end up depositing the whole beans in their feces. Someone then has the pleasure of digging out the beans and after that they are ready to be served! OK, there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s just a quick briefing.

I had a couple of cups of weasel coffee in Hanoi, and I was truly impressed. The coffee was brewed strong, but even though I drank it completely black, there was absolutely zero acidity and none of that sourness that might come from a regular cup of black coffee.

Vietnamese Coffee on the Streets

Vietnamese Coffee on the Streets

So how can I fully enjoy drinking a cup of Vietnamese coffee?

You might remember that Vietnam takes things to the street, and coffee is among the leaders in that field.

Hanoi coffee shops are everywhere to be seen and impossible to miss. Grab a 6-inch stool, and pull yourself up to a street coffee shop in Vietnam. Order a couple of rounds, and you’ll be ready to start the day. In another few hours, stop again and order another!

People don’t just drink an energy buzzing shot of java in the morning, many partake throughout the entire day. A quick ca phe sua da is a battery charge that allows you to keep going, fighting the traffic, working, or plugging away on whatever task may be at hand.

By the way, as I sit here writing this, I’m happily sipping on a cup of black Vietnamese coffee!

About the Author:

is the author of 154 posts on Go Backpacking.

Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the US for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @migrationology, and add him on Google Plus.

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Categories: Features, Food, Vietnam
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22 Comments

Vlaicu Sorin August 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I even bought myself the machine and some Vietnamese coffee ( from London unfortunately ) after returning from my trip to east-Asia. I simply love the coffee and the way it’s being made. I would live in Vietnam only for the coffee )

Reply

Mark Wiens August 10, 2011 at 12:07 am

Good thought Vlaicu – and I totally agree with you. I have a big stash of Vietnamese coffee and the about 6 of the little coffee drippers at my home now!

Reply

Mark Wiens August 10, 2011 at 12:07 am

Good thought Vlaicu – and I totally agree with you. I have a big stash of Vietnamese coffee and the about 6 of the little coffee drippers at my home now!

Reply

Vlaicu Sorin August 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I even bought myself the machine and some Vietnamese coffee ( from London unfortunately ) after returning from my trip to east-Asia. I simply love the coffee and the way it’s being made. I would live in Vietnam only for the coffee )

Reply

Jasmine Stephenson August 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I once went into a local coffee house in Vietnam and ordered what I thought was a coffee. It came back with about 2 shots of whiskey! Next time I go, I’ll have to print out this article :)

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Dave August 9, 2011 at 4:40 am

Sounds like you got an Irish coffee instead :)

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Don August 9, 2011 at 3:36 am

Another great post, Mark. Brings back fond memories of my time in Hanoi and drinking a few Ca phe sue das and nongs every day. I brought a package home with me too. It didn’t last very long! That first photo was taken in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, wasn’t it?

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Mark Wiens August 10, 2011 at 12:09 am

Hey Don,
Thanks!That first photo is actually a shot from Hanoi, but it’s known as coffee street – maybe a 15 minute walk from central old quarter. I had just read about it and decided to walk there one day and check it out.

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Andi Perullo August 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Oh gosh that looks amazing!

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Andi Perullo August 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Oh gosh that looks amazing!

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Mark Wiens August 10, 2011 at 12:09 am

Thanks Andi!

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Mia August 10, 2011 at 8:21 am

This is a unique experience, I bet all my colleagues would love to try a cup of coffee made Vietnam style. 

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Mark Wiens August 31, 2011 at 1:03 am

Great, hope they can try some!

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Henry Williams August 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm

good post i love the way they go about making their coffee

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Mark Wiens August 31, 2011 at 1:04 am

I do too. It’s simple to make and the taste is strong and delicious!

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Ricky August 18, 2011 at 11:48 am

We have such machine. The coffee gets really nice with it. Sometimes we make little get-togethers and have a cup over a good conversation.

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Mark Wiens August 31, 2011 at 1:04 am

Sounds great Ricky!

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Larissa Michael August 20, 2011 at 3:41 am

If you had to choose between visiting one city would it be Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City?

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Mark Wiens August 31, 2011 at 1:05 am

Hey Larissa, I haven’t actually been to Ho Chi Minh, but I did have a great time in Hanoi – it’s a great city to visit.

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Unifor March 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I went to Cafe Tho in your photo above – great place for a Ca phe sua da.

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Stephen April 20, 2012 at 5:32 am

Nice timing. I’m headed to Vietnam in a couple of days and I like my coffee black, with no additives.

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The Saffron Girl October 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm

It’s funny. We just came back from a trip to Vietnam, where we visited Ha Noi and Ha Long Bay; and one of the first things that I fell in love with while there was the Vietnamese coffee! And I come from a strong coffee culture in Spain, but this was totally delicious. I even bought myself a little brewer so I can make it at home. Of course, it’s not only the rather sweet flavour of the coffee itself (it’s less sour than the traditional coffee one finds elsewhere), but it’s also the special mix with the sweetened condensed milk that makes it rather special, albeit not that healthy. ;)
Nice article! Happy Travels!

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