I was a coffee lover way before traveling to Vietnam, but once I've tried Vietnamese coffee, everything changed. Vietnamese coffee is diverse in texture, taste, and color, and locals enjoy their cup of coffee. It's easy to say that the coffee culture is strong, and everyone can feel it instantly. It would be a sin not to try some of the most popular Vietnam coffee types while exploring the county.
Black coffee or coffee with milk are the most common choices, and you'd enjoy it since people use different beans and ways of preparation. If you want to get fancy, you're lucky as Vietnamese people love to experiment with their coffee.
While living in Vietnam for almost two years, I've got a chance to deeply explore a local coffee culture and try different coffee types. Here are a few coffee delicacies you HAVE to try while in Vietnam.
1. Cà Phê Sữa (Milk Coffee)
Vietnamese milk coffee on a rainy day by Sandra
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Okay, so cà phê sữa (coffee with condensed milk) is everywhere around the country, even in the remote mountainous areas. I had a pretty heart-warming experience while traveling around Kontum. I took a short break from a long drive and found a small cover that looked like a local store. I've ordered a coffee with milk (coffee is a universal world and no matter your language, people will understand), but people didn't have it on the stock. The friendly middle-aged women just smiled and screamed in a warm tone. The next thing I know, a neighbor is coming with a cup of hot milk coffee and bringing it to my table. I love Vietnamese people! :)
Cà phê sữa is a sweet combination of coffee, condensed milk, and usually a handful of broken ice. When you order this type of coffee, you will most likely get a cup with a 'phin' on top while coffee is still brewing. It takes a few minutes to start drinking, but the whole preparation process is what makes Vietnamese coffee culture so unique. You can relax and watch the busy world around you while enjoying a pleasant coffee aroma and waiting for the black magic.
Once the brewing process is over, just remove the filter and stir the coffee so the condensed milk will mix with coffee and create a sweet and creamy brown drink.
It's a robust and sweet coffee, so sometimes, you'll need to add plenty of ice to dilute the bitterness.
For real coffee lovers who want to experience the coffee taste without the mixture of condensed, cà phê đen (black coffee) is a way to go. I don't like it since I prefer a creamy texture and sweetness that comes with condensed milk.
If you're staying in Vietnam for extended periods, then I can't recommend more getting your own phin set and coffee beans. You can buy delicious coffee beans and filters on every local market. Don't forget to check our guide on making Vietnamese milk coffee.
Where to Drink Milk Coffee
I would say there is no specific place for drinking traditional cà phê sữa, as you can find local cafes on every step. Just walk around and look for tiny chairs and tables on the street, load locals playing cards and video games - that's the place you're looking for.
The taste differs, depending on the beans and quantity of coffee used, but for first-timers, you will be totally blown away! Antonio is an expat in Da Nang, so he knows explicitly a few places where he drinks his coffee! People swear in the quality of Trung Nguyen beans that you get in the big coffee shops and franchises. In some places, especially Da Lat or Buon Ma Thuot, you should support locals and taste the coffee made from organic coffee farms. Plus, this area is known for Arabica coffee, which is rare in Vietnam.
2. Cà phê trứng (Egg Coffee)
Egg Coffee in Hanoi by David McKelvey
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Egg coffee is a favorite beverage in the northern part of Vietnam, especially in Hanoi. But don't worry as you can find it everywhere around the country (a bit harder though).
The story of egg coffee shows the ability of Vietnamese people to adapt to ANY situation. During the French war and colonial era, Vietnam lacked many resources since the colonialists were extracting the resources mainly for selling and making the profit for their benefit. In 1946, there was a shortage of milk, so people couldn't enjoy their milk coffee, so they needed to think about the ways to enjoy their favorite drink.
In every tough situation, there is a huge possibility that a great idea will see the light of a day. A guy named Tri Hoa Nguyen invented an egg coffee where he used an egg blend instead of milk. Egg coffee wasn't famous until the 80s when Vietnam started to invest heavily in the coffee industry. During the 80s, the egg coffee popularity went through the roof, and Vietnam, once again, was recognized as an innovative country.
When it comes to taste, some people love it, some people hate it. It depends on your taste, so we're going to leave it for you to judge.
The egg coffee is made with a fresh and raw egg yolk mixed with condensed milk. It is more of a dessert than a drink, and people enjoy it either hot or cold. We prefer it hot since it gives you a fantastic experience when it comes to taste and smell.
Where to Drink Egg Coffee
Since egg coffee originates from the north, you can find your fix in many local places around Hanoi. Arguably, the most popular place for traditional egg coffee is Cafe Giang, as this delicious drink originates from there. We didn't have a chance to drink a lot of egg coffee (milk coffee addicts here), but we know for sure that you can find your fix in a famous Cong Cafe around the country.
3. Bạc xỉu
Bạc xỉu is a trendy drink around Vietnam that uses the same ingredients as regular milk coffee, but proportions differ. Bạc xỉu is a sugar bomb with a lot of condensed milk mixed with just a bit of coffee and ice.
If you're a coffee-lover, then you will probably skip this drink since it doesn't give you a coffee experience, and it's very sweet, but again, it depends on your taste.
Kids or teenagers usually enjoy bạc xỉu who're at cafe shops with their family or people who can't stand a bitterness of traditional Vietnamese coffee.
During the colonial era, milk was scarce and expensive, but the people around the country still enjoyed it. Higher status people were able to drink condensed milk, but since it was expensive, they needed to mix it with something. They started to mix milk with the water, but the flavor wasn't pleasant, so people began to add a bit of coffee, and they liked it. It's how bạc xỉu was born!
Where to Drink Bac Xiu
The same goes as for milk coffee - you can find Bac Xiu on every step! Wherever you see a place that sells regular milk coffee, it means you can order Bac Xiu too! If they don't have it on the menu, don't forget to ask for the price in front since people sometimes charge more for the things they don't have on the menu (completely understandable).
The prices in the street shops range between 10k - 20k VND, while in the fine cafes, you can expect to pay up to 50k VND.
4. Cà phê dừa (Coconut Coffee)
A coconut coffee is a real deal when it comes to coffee and flavor. This type of coffee is very sweet, and it leaves a pleasant coconut taste in your mouth. Vietnamese people usually mix coconut ice cream, a bit of condensed milk, and the potent brew of Vietnamese dark coffee.
Once you mix it, you get a flawless combination that is called a coconut coffee. It's not a very usual coffee choice among locals, but travelers in general love this type of coffee.
Basically, you're scoping the coconut ice cream with a bit of coffee taste while drinking a strong Vietnamese coffee. How to beat that?
Where to Drink Coconut Coffee
Like we already mentioned, coconut coffee isn't a favorite drink among locals, so you may face a tough time finding it. Although many fancy (read foreigner-friendly) cafes list coconut coffee on their menus! You will have a hard mission if you're planning to find that drink in the street shops. We didn't specifically look for coconut coffee around the streets, but we've never seen anyone drinking it on the street.
This type of coffee is a bit more expensive than the other types, but still, you can enjoy this tasty drink for 25k - 50k VND in cozy cafes.
5. Cà phê sữa chua (Yogurt Coffee)
Cà phê sữa chua is another coffee specialty, especially during the hot months. Vietnamese people are very adjustable by nature, and that's how they invented a yogurt coffee.
Yogurt serves as a balanced source of nutrients and helps in maintaining healthy body functions like promoting the immune system, healthy heart, improve digestion, and much more. So they figured out they can mix it with their coffee and make a fantastic drink, because why not!
Its taste reminds of traditional milk coffee, but they add a bit of coconut milk and yogurt in the blend. Also, during the hot months, people add a ton of ice, which makes it crazy addictive and refreshing!
Where to Drink Yogurt Coffee
It's hard to find this type of coffee around the streets, but many cafes have it on the menu. Also, during the hot months, you can enjoy this drink on the beach while chilling on the summer breeze.
The price usually starts from 25k in cafes and around 40k on the beach.
What's your favorite coffee type in Vietnam? Feel free to share your experiences below. :)