When it comes to coffee growing countries, places like Colombia, Brazil, or Ethiopia are often the first that come to mind. However, as coffee demand continues to grow, new regions are emerging on the scene as top-quality producers. Vietnam is a great example of a country that has a rich history of producing some of the finest coffee in the world. Vietnamese coffee has more recently been recognized not only for it’s history, but also it’s quality. Many are already familiar with Vietnamese coffee, that delicious thick, dark, robust brew, sweetened with condensed milk, but there’s more to Vietnamese coffee than this one delicious drink.
Vietnam’s topography and climate, provide ideal growing conditions for a wide variety of coffees, including Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, Liberica and Catimor and Vietnam is now the second-largest coffee producer in the world behind Brazil and ahead of regional behemoth, Indonesia. Because of the microclimates and the diversity of beans grown in Annamite Plateau region of Vietnam, different bean species are typically mixed together to develop a multi-origin blend. This helps to create a broad range of flavor in the coffee, with a satisfying mouthfeel and a welcome aftertaste.
The downside of this growth has been deforestation. As the popularity of coffee has grown forested land cleared to make way for coffee plantations has contributed to environmental degradation in Brazil and has been especially problematic in Vietnam. Thankfully many farmers are moving towards receiving sustainability certifications from organizations like Rainforest Alliance, enabling them to fetch a higher price for their coffee while ensuring a minimal environmental impact. However, like farmers in most coffee-producing countries, Vietnam’s coffee growers’ future harvests are threatened by the impacts of climate change, making sustainable practices even more important. Be sure to check the labels for any coffee to be sure you’re supporting a company that’s doing things the right way.
When Makes Vietnamese Coffee So Unique?
Some key characteristics of Vietnamese coffee:
- The beans are from Vietnam, but are also often blended bean coffees, rather than single-estate coffees.
- Vietnamese coffee is often produced by roasting the beans at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. This is somewhat similar to a traditional French roast, but the coffee producers are careful to ensure that all the beans achieve a consistent color without any burning or bubbling.
- The coffee beans can also be roasted in “butter oil,” which may refer to clarified butter oil, although vegetable oil is sometimes used. The coating of oil serves to create a thin, hardened shell around the beans as they are roasted. This helps to achieve a consistent color on all the beans. A small amount of vanilla, cocoa or sugar may also be added during the roasting process.
- Condensed milk is added to give a sweetness and creaminess that would please even the most discerning Starbucks caramel mocha frappuccino drinkers.
How to Brew Vietnamese Coffee
The brewing style utilized for Vietnamese coffee is also in use across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and other areas of Southeast Asia. A metal filter known as a Phin holds the beans over a single-serving container, and hot water is added. The process is simple, but allows people to enjoy the coffee at their leisure. In Vietnam, coffee drinking is for relaxation, not a beverage to be consumed quickly on the run. The Phin filter can also be used to make iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk added.
A French press can be used to brew Vietnamese coffee, but because it brews a larger amount, the taste might be slightly different. Americans who wish to enjoy Vietnamese coffee can use a percolator or a drip brewer, though the Phin filter is preferred for the most superior taste.