Looking for a great coffee, but want to try something different? Why not try Vietnamese coffee? Delicious served either hot or cold it is wickedly strong, sweet, rich and refreshing all at the same time. Try a ca phe sua nong (hot coffee with milk) or If the weather is too hot and/or humid, try ca phe sua da, (ice coffee with milk) Once tasted, you will be coming back for more.
Coffee in Vietnam
Another French legacy for the Vietnamese was the introduction of coffee. I was shocked to find out that Vietnam is the number 2 coffee-producing nation in the world! The coffee industry in Vietnam employs 1 million people, a staggering number. I have never associated Vietnam with coffee and I am guessing I am not alone on that score.
But here’s the rub. Vietnam primarily produces “robusta” coffee. The more premium bean is “Arabica” and this bean naturally attracts all of the marketing. So what is robusta used for besides Vietnamese coffee?
Almost all instant coffee is made from robusta, including the ubiquitous Nescafe. In addition, some premium brands (including Lavazza) offer robusta blends at a lower price point. Robusta contains more caffeine than Arabica and is therefore more bitter. It is also easier to grow and cheaper than Arabica.
The Verdict on Vietnamese Coffee
Okay we are coffee snobs. Many places we travel we don’t drink coffee because we find it hard to find a decent cup. At home we drink hot, black coffee (no sugar) from a French press, or when we are out Italian-style extracted coffee with milk or black (espresso) is usually our preferred option. So biases confessed, how did we find Vietnamese coffee?
Well it grows on you and after a while you start to look forward to it! But it was not until half way through our trip that I started to absolutely adore it. Let me explain.
When I first arrived in Vietnam I was drinking my Vietnamese coffee black. It was strong and bitter and I didn’t really care for it. I avoided it for a while. But then I realized my hot coffee needed milk in it! Cow’s milk is not always available so the locals use sweetened, condensed milk (ca phe sua nong is hot coffee with milk). Oh wow, this was an improvement! Creamy and sweet, suddenly the coffee was pretty good! And finally in Hoi An, I tried the cold, iced version (ca phe sua da). Very nice indeed! Maybe the best ice coffee ever?! Read on . . .
We cycled each day we were in Hoi An, starting early to beat some of the heat. But by mid-morning we were in need of a coffee despite the heat. We stopped in a little café on the trail (yes very convenient) and against my better judgment, relented and ordered iced Vietnamese coffees.
The cup arrives with a generous dollop or two of sweetened, condensed milk in the bottom and ice. The phin filter (containing ground coffee) is placed on top of the cup and a small quantity of boiling water is poured into the phin (filter). The lid is placed on top of the phin and your hot coffee slowly drips over the ice and condensed milk. This takes about four minutes. When the dripping coffee stops it is time to start drinking. Give it a good stir and you are right to go. Well I can tell you it is like drinking something prepared in heaven!
Strong, rich, sweet (this from a person who doesn’t take sugar in his coffee) and refreshingly cold.
Ca phe sua da is just divine, there is no other word for it.
To make your own, you will need sweetened condensed milk, a Vietnamese brand of coffee and a phin (filter), Both of these items are available in our shop. You can also purchase a kit to make Vietnamese style coffee(includes premium coffee, phin, Vietnamese sweetened condensed milk and pictorial instructions).
FREE PRINTABLE SHOPPING LIST
All the specialty ingredients you need to make the Vietnamese recipes on Compass & Fork on one handy printable shopping list.