It is quite ironic that I wrote this section about Vietnamese coffee, as I sat in Starbucks in Malaysia.

I love the atmosphere for writing, drinking a variety of drinks including iced and hot lattes. Lots of people coming and going, people meeting with friends, music strumming away, electric plug for my computer, decent internet; and lots of people like me working on their computers.

I joke that I should be a shareholder of these companies since I basically set up office at one of my favourites every day.  When I’m in Hanoi I also love to work from coffee shops, but my selection is much more diverse, from tiny little smoky cafes to my consistent cafe favourites including: Puku, Illy, Paris Deli, Classic Motor, Little Hanoi, Koto, May, Hapro, Moca, Le Place and many others that remain nameless and you will never find in the guide books; to the chain of Highlands Coffee – the choice seems unlimited.

The environment feels endless too, overlooking the lakes, in some historic compound, on the side of the street, in the chaotic Old Quarter, smoky, dingy, bright, light, modern, weird, and funky the choice is yours.

I also love to retreat and recharge my batteries at Highlands Coffee, which is basically the Starbucks of Vietnam.  Depending on my mood and the weather I have a great choice from the 3rd floor at the top of Hoan Kiem lake, on Nha Tho Street, beside the Opera House or War Museum or at Hanoi Towers to name a few.  One can shut off from the world and just enjoy a western styled coffee or a latte, like what I would enjoy at home.  Add to it a yummy slice of Vietnamese Coffee cheesecake and my day is complete !!

Now what shall we drink ???

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

The most famous has to be ‘Vietnamese Iced Coffee’ (Cà Phê Sữa Đá ), quite an acquired taste, but once the taste buds have got used to it, it can become an essential daily requirement.

This can be served in different ways, which sometimes adds an element of confusion, but at the end it’s always deliciously sweet and sticky, cold and caffeine charged, so no need to sleep for days.

Note it often comes with a long stemmed spoon in it, no straw, so this drink is designed to be sipped not slurped.

Variations of presentation…

  1. Comes out mixed up and ready to drink — nice!
  1. In a glass, black coffee, some ice floating and in the bottom a ring of thick condensed milk. Give it a stir and its ready to roll!
  1. A cup and saucer with metal filter system on top and a glass with some ice in it get delivered.

Ummm, you are probably wondering if you accidentally ordered a hot coffee, but fear not . . .  just wait for the coffee to filter through to the cup which takes a while.  Then take off the filter and stir the readymade hot coffee, as the condensed milk is in the bottom of the cup, then pour into the glass of ice!!  Ok ready to drink (sip).

Often the coffee comes out with a small glass of water or tea, both are complementary, so enjoy.

Hot Vietnamese Coffee

Hot Vietnamese coffee comes like this, put a bit of condensed milk in the bottom - yum ! Cup with Vietnamese coffee filter sitting on top of the cup.
Hot Vietnamese coffee comes like this, put a bit of condensed milk in the bottom of the cup – yum !

While my husband’s cousin (Niels) from Denmark was in Hanoi we sat in a tiny cafe, freezing bits off as it was a cold December’s day.   After Niels ordered a traditional hot Vietnamese coffee he announced ‘I want a hot steaming cup of coffee’, which gave me a giggle as I knew what he wanted and what he was going to get where 2 different things.

What appeared was a cup with filter on top.  Patience is a virtue as one must wait for the coffee to drip through the metal filter into the cup.  This can take a few minutes; and on a cold day the coffee is not going to be steaming hot when you get to drink it.

The next surprise is coming, as in the bottom of the cup is a layer of condensed milk, stir and drink.  Even though the coffee wasn’t what he expected he still enjoyed it, adding to his list of holiday adventures.

For Vietnamese this it the way to drink hot coffee, so try it out.

Coffee Yogurt - you have to try this !! Sounds bad but sooo good - put in a glass crushed ice, then drizzel with condensed milk, tip in a pottle of plain yogurt and tip on a shot of strong Vietnamese Coffee - stir - not shaken !! (heaven) !!Coffee with Yogurt

Try this !!   Coffee with Yoghurt.  Yes I know it sounds revolting, but you have to try it to believe it.

Served in a glass, ice, sometimes a bit of condensed milk in the bottom, a small container of yogurt is dropped in, then a shot or two of coffee poured over.

Yum, eat with the spoon, through the straw getting a bit of this or that; or mix it up and slurp it up like a smoothie !!.

Coffee Yogurt – you have to try this !! Sounds bad but sooo good – put in a glass crushed ice, then drizzel with condensed milk, tip in a pottle of plain yogurt and tip on a shot of strong Vietnamese Coffee – stir – not shaken !! (heaven) !!

History

The whole coffee scene was introduced to Vietnam in the 1870’s by the French who also love coffee.  They began plantations in the fertile soil which was perfect for coffee plant to thrive.  Brought in so they had their own local supplies and also for export.  Due to the French enjoying a coffee with milk and the unavailability of milk, condensed milk was introduced and has stuck as a family favourite.

From those beginnings and a few hiccups during war times, it is now acclaim to be the 2nd largest producer of coffee in the world, next to Brazil.  Only 10% is drunk locally and the rest exported and made mainly into instant coffee.

Major Players

Trung Nguyen Coffee, Lakeside, Ho Tay, Hanoi
Trung Nguyen Coffee, Lakeside, Ho Tay, Hanoi

Trung Nguyen Coffee

Trung Nguyen Coffee is a group of companies who grow, process and distribute Vietnamese Coffee.  It also operates a nationwide chain of over 1,000 coffee shops.  International franchises are set in Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, United States and in Germany.

The major instant coffee brand in Vietnam, company established in 1996, it is exports its products to 25 countries.

This brand is known for the Trung Nguyen, G7, and Weasel coffee.

Vinacafe

The state owned corporation that is involved in the production, processing and distribution of coffee.

Under the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry this company began by a French guy called Marcel Coronel who left Vietnam just at the close of the Vietnam War 1975.  Vinacafe’s 3-in-1 line of instant coffee is sold domestically and in 60 countries.