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Coffee Travel Log - Vietnam

Coffee was introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by the French and slowly grew as producer of coffee in Asia. The height of coffee production occurred in the early 20th century as small-scale production shifted towards plantations.

By 2000, coffee production had grown to 900,000 tons per year. Vietnam is the second largest producer in the world after Brazil.


Be really careful when you make your trip here. The locals are known to scam foreigners because of the language barrier. I was tricked onto a taxi who dropped me midway from the airport to my hotel because he have "more customers to pick up at the hotel and is in a hurry". So here I am, excited from my blight as I have to flag a motorist who picked me up and send me to my hotel without a helmet.

Thank God I managed to keep my kidneys intact.

This is a typical Vietnamese coffee shop. The patrons sit on tiny stools and watch the world goes by as they sip on their coffee.

Vietnamese (Buôn Mê Thuột region) style coffee has characteristics that distinguish it from other coffees and brewing methods. Typically the coffee is prepared in single servings in single-cup filter/brewers known as phin. Generally the coffee is served while it is still brewing. The use of sweetened condensed milk rather than fresh milk was first due to its availability and easier storage in a tropical climate. The condensed milk serves to sweeten the coffee as well. Long practice has led to this being the taste preference in the Vietnamese community.

I love Vietnamese traditional local coffee. Despite the overly sweet taste, the coffee is rich in body and aroma that reminds me a little of our Singapore traditional coffee.

The brew is often very strong. Hence drinking it cold suits me better as the ice slowly dissolve and dilutes the drink. The spoon that is served with the ice coffee has 2 purposes. Firstly, it helps you stir up the sweet condense milk. Secondly, it quickens the process for the ice to melt so that the coffee is diluted into something less sweet and strong.

Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, refers to the coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet.

Producers of the coffee beans argue that the process may improve coffee through two mechanisms, selection and digestion. Selection occurs if the civets choose to eat cherries. Digestive mechanisms may improve the flavor profile of the coffee beans that have been eaten. The civet or weasel, eats the cherries for the fleshy pulp, then in the digestive tract, fermentation occurs.

The civet's protease enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through the intestines the cherries are then defecated with other fecal matter and collected. (Source: Wikipedia)

Beware of fakes in Vietnam. Personally, I will not purchase these coffee as I do not agree on the methods used by the Viets to collect these beans. Often, the weasels are locked in small cages and forced fed large amounts of coffee.

The coffee is typically roasted hyper dark. The dark roast produces develops a coat of coffee oil that gives Vietnamese coffee that oily glow as seen from the picture above.

Nonetheless, I tried a cup and have to comment that even though the method of production is inhumane, the flavor created from this method of harvest is rich and interesting.

Ho Chi Minh

This is one of the secrets to Vietnamese coffee. The local coffee is often roasted with dried corn that gives it that signature sweet, popcorn-like aroma. The sugars from the corn is caramelized onto the coffee bean. However, this process makes the coffee very bitter as the sugar tends to get burned. That is also one reason why the Vietnamese adds so much sweetened milk into their drink.

The huge influx of international travelers spark a new trend for most cafes to serve both European style coffee along side their traditional local brew.

Recently, more and more hipster looking cafes are popping up in the region right beside the local stores.

I love the rustic interior of this cafe located just 20 steps away from where I live.

Mam Cafe

Address: 15 55, Le Thi Hong Gam | District 1, Ho Chi Minh City 700000, Vietnam

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