If you’re taking a trip to Vietnam, then you can’t miss the chance to try Vietnamese coffee.
Coffee in Vietnam isn’t just a product, it’s a whole culture and it’s the reason why popular global brands such as Starbucks have such a hard time taking off there - the Vietnam famous coffee culture is just too strong!
Whether you’re on the hunt for the best coffee beans in Vietnam (Robusta), the best coffee to buy in Vietnam or the best coffee in Hoi An, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, I’m sharing the best coffee in Vietnam and the coffee you must try during your Vietnam trip.
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What are the best coffee beans in Vietnam?
Although Arabica beans were brought to Vietnam centuries ago, they failed to take and grow in the climate. However the French brought Robusta beans to Vietnam in the French Colonial era, around the 1850s.
Since then Robusta have been the best coffee beans in Vietnam and are the beans behind the famous coffee in Vietnam that you’ll no doubt experience during your time there.
Robusta is very strong, thicker texture and flavour (I’m usually a black coffee drinker but find I personally prefer it iced, rather than straight black coffee). It’s a very fragrant coffee and you can smell the difference in the cup as you drink.
What is coffee culture in Vietnam?
Coffee is a way of life in Vietnam and it’s no surprise, Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest producers and exporters of coffee.
The streets are lined with small coffee shops, or Ca Phe, from the most basic front room of someone’s house, to a hipster cafe or a boho coffee shop overlooking the bustling streets or beach.
It’s not uncommon to see people in coffee shops at 9pm or 10pm, it’s more common for people to go for coffee later in the evening than a drink. Everything stays open so late in Vietnam, cities come alive in the eveing when it gets cooler, so most places will be open until 11pm or even midnight.
Are there coffee shop chains in Vietnam?
Yes, but international chains like Starbucks are not very successful. In fact, they have only 92 coffee shop locations in Vietnam. This might sound a lot but they actually only account for 2% of Vietnam’s coffee-drinking (2022 study) My source for this is a fascinating article from the BBC which I found after my partner and I were discussing how chain coffee shops must struggle to survive here with so many cheaper, independent places! You can read the article here.
The reason why these chains struggle to survive is because they’re seen as “luxury coffee” and they just can’t compete with the prices of coffee in local Ca Phe’s, most of which charge just 30-50K for a coffee (£1-£1.70 or $1.26-$2.10) when was the last time a Starbucks cost you under $2/£1.50?!
There are local coffee chains, Highlands Coffee has over 600 locations and just about manages to compete with these cheap prices. Highlands is the famous coffee brand in Vietnam. However Cong Coffee is another local coffee house Vietnam is most famous for which is a must-try with decor and staff outfits inspired by the post-war period of 1975-85 when rationing was common.
The best coffee in Vietnam - the must-try famous Vietnamese coffees
Egg Coffee (Ca Phy Trung) is the best coffee in Hanoi to try - although I will say it isn’t for everyone, I personally found it a bit too thick and sweet.
Egg coffee originated in Hanoi during the 1940s and interestingly was born more out of necessity when milk shortages led people to whisk egg as a milk substitute.
Egg coffee is traditionally made with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and robusta coffee. They make it by beating egg yolks with sugar and condensed milk. The egg cream is then poured over the coffee. You need to drink it quickly (we were told within 20 minutes) to stop the mixture separating.
I can see why the egg coffee is so famous, it’s totally unique and definitely has an interesting taste that’s worth a try when you’re in Vietnam, I just won’t be reaching for it as my morning coffee every day!
Coconut coffee (Ca Phe Dua) is my absolute favourite treat in Vietnam, especially iced! Although you can drink it hot or cold.
It blends the staple Robusta coffee with coconut cream, condensed milk and ice. Often it looks like an ice cream float depending on where it’s served!
The best coconut coffee Hanoi had to offer was close to my apartment, I loved the coconut coffee at Izi in Tay Ho and for takeaway I also enjoyed it from Oriberry - although this was a lot more sugar so I only had it as an afternoon treat rather than my morning coffee.
Coconut coffee is a lot more refreshing and you’ll find coconuts everywhere in Vietnam, with coconut coffee not far behind.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
In the hot, humid temperatures in Vietnam, iced coffees are usually more common than hot coffee.
The classic Vietnamese iced coffee can be served black over ice, Ca Phe Da, or with milk or condensed milk, Ca Phe sua da.
This is the traditional Vietnamese drip coffee made with Robusta beans with a traditional phin drip and poured over ice. Although you won’t see a phin being used in all coffee shops now, it’s still the traditional way to make Vietnamese coffee.
Traditional Vietnamese drip coffee
I absolutely love the process of traditional Vietnamese drip coffee, Ca Phe Den.
It uses an individual tin filter for each cup called a phin, hot water is poured over the coffee and the coffee drips through the tin, directly into your cup. It takes around 10 minutes to percolate. You then remove the phin from the top of your cup to drink.
Milk can be added or you can drink black, although I prefer black coffee I do find the Robusta very strong.
It’s also common for a lot of sugar to be added so it’s more of a sweet, black coffee. Again I’m not a huge fan of sweet drinks so I usually decline. But if you order in a coffee shop or at your hotel or accommodation, you’ll be given the choice of sugar and milk just like you would in most places.
Where to find the best coffee in Vietnam?
There’s no one place or shop I can recommend, coffee is such a huge part of daily life that you can get it from anywhere and everywhere. Each street usually has at least 3 coffee shops!
But these are some of my favourites.
Best coffee Hanoi:
Cafe Dinh (centrally located)
Cafe Giang (credited with creating egg coffee)
Izi Cafe (best coconut coffee Hanoi)
Oriberry (expat favourite)
Hidden Gem Coffee - Quán Cà Phê Tái Chế
Cong Phe (Vietnamiese chain coffee house that’s worth trying)
The Note Cafe (famous for post-it notes everywhere - best coconut coffee Hanoi with a view)
Hanoi Social Club (best vietnamese coffee Hanoi - expat favourite)
Best coffee in Saigon:
Arabica Ho Chi Minh City (best Vietnamese coffee in Ho Chi Minh City and a unique location inside apartment block)
Little HaNoi Egg Coffee (for egg coffee in Saigon)
Rang Rang Coffee - Thảo Điền (popular expat area)
Cheese coffee (a Saigon coffee shop chain)
Cong Cafe with a view of Tan Dinh Church (themed coffee shop chain)
Best coffee Hoi An:
Hoi An Roastery Espresso & Coffee House (lovely decor)
Phin Coffee & Restaurant (traditional phin drip coffee)
Faifo Coffee (great view with a terrace, coconut coffee in Hoi An)
Summary: the best coffee to try in Vietnam
In conclusion, make sure you try egg coffee and coconut coffee at least once on your trip! The traditional coffee experience in Vietnam is one you need to try as it’s such a big part of the culture here.
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