Vietnamese coffee is the rocket fuel that keeps the country buzzing. You’ll find cafes on every street in every city, from trendy cafes moulded by the creative class, to retro institutions that have evolved over decades, to pavement cafes draped around and across the sidewalks. In each one, you’ll be enveloped by nattering locals nursing their favourite brew.
Traditional Vietnamese coffee is made from Robusta beans, which have a strong, bitter taste. For decades, resourceful café owners have dreamt up new ways to temper the potent Robusta bean and enhance the country’s favourite drink. As a result, there’s now a kaleidoscope of innovative coffee variations on the menu.
Vietnamese coffee beans are usually roasted in butter then brewed in metal filters. Some filters are small enough to rest on a coffee cup and make excellent souvenirs; others are so enormous they need a team to carry. The moments spent waiting for your coffee to brew are part of the pleasure of this style of coffee. Due to its bitterness, black Vietnamese coffee is an acquired taste. Feel free to sweeten your drink with condensed milk (you’ll find that many locals do), or mix it with ice. A cold cà phê sữa đá on a hot day is a quintessential Vietnamese coffee experience.
Hot egg coffee
The story goes that after the war when milk was scarce, Hanoians still craved something to take the edge off their coffee. Inexpensive and creamy, egg yolks emerged as the perfect alternative. Even as Vietnam became more prosperous and milk returned to the market, cà phê trứng persisted for its delicious goodness. It’s now a must-try Hanoi speciality drink, especially during the winter months. A dense, frothy head of foam sits atop a rich brew: gently fold it in with a spoon, and sip slowly.
Very few cities escape the summer sun in Vietnam. If you start to overheat while exploring, why not try an iced coconut coffee? More of scoop-able ice cream than a drinkable coffee, coconut coffee or cà phê cốt dừa, is at once a pick-me-up, fill-me-up, and cool-me-down. The barista will blend traditional drip coffee with coconut milk, fresh milk, and condensed milk. The finished product is spooned into a glass and serve as a refreshing treat. The coffee grounds the flavour with the coconut giving the drink a fun tropical twist, kind of like a coffee cocktail.
A weird and wonderful alternative to milk, you just can’t go wrong with an enticing yoghurt coffee, better known as cà phê sữa chua. The drink blends Vietnamese drip coffee with yoghurt, condensed milk, and ice, though the last two are optional. You’ll find ca phe sua chua on menus across Hanoi, however, the best coffee shops use fresh, home-made yoghurt. The sourness from the yoghurt, bitterness from the coffee beans, and sweetness from the condensed milk make for a mouthwatering combination.