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Coffee in Vietnam

There are a host of amazing experiences open to you in Vietnam, from indulging in lazy beach days to exploring the ruins of ages past. Yet for all Vietnam's diversity between its north, south and centre, one aspect of local life everybody loves is its coffee. Coffee in Vietnam is pretty different to anywhere else in the world, so we've got a quick guide to help you get behind the buzz.

A quick recap-uccino

Vietnam's love of coffee comes from its historic ties with France in the 1850s.

It's why to this day Vietnamese coffee has the strength and impact of the rich dark coffees of mainland Europe, the likes of which you've probably tasted in Italy and Portugal. Naturally, Vietnam's Far Eastern influences soon gave it a distinctive taste over the ages, and the beautifully hot climate has made iced coffees the norm. Vietnamese people tend to adore coffee and you'll see it being consumed everywhere.

How it's prepared

Vietnamese coffee keeps its prep style simple. There's a metal filter called a phin that's used to combine rich robusta beans and water, drip-filtering the resulting dark brew into a mug or glass below. The flavour is strong, stark and bitter, so the default way to enjoy Vietnamese coffee is with sugar. It's easy to order in the local lingo too, because all you need to say is 'ca phe', which sounds identical to how we say 'cafe'.

The strong bitterness of how they roast their coffee here is also why they use condensed milk in ca phe sua da, which is coffee with milk. If you're after the fullest flavour without any dallying with the dairy though, opt for 'ca-phe-den-da', which is black iced coffee.

The biggest brands and blends

What plenty of people planning a holiday to Vietnam are surprised to learn is that they've probably already tried Vietnamese coffee, in a way. The country exports so much of the good stuff that it's become one of the leading global suppliers of the robusta beans that go into instant coffee. Experts say about 25% of the UK's instant coffee comes from Vietnam.

Of course, many coffee fans prefer the authentic flavours of a properly filtered cup of joe, and luckily Vietnam's got plenty of style to back up its substance. Artisan blends and specialised roasts are being perfected across the country all the time, and a thriving coffee culture has emerged. You can see that for yourself in one of the countless branches of Vietnam's biggest coffee chain, Trung Nguyen Coffee. As well as a menu as vast and varied as any of the greats back home, you can also buy blends here with gorgeously evocative names like Passiona and Discover.

A cup of something different

In keeping with its different twists on classic coffees, Vietnam has a few ways to enjoy a mug of java that are pretty unusual. A great example is sua chua ca phe, which is yoghurt coffee – definitely a more rich and creamy protein-infused way to get your caffeine kick. It's a similar story with ca phe trung, which contains coffee, condensed milk and whipped egg yolk. If that sounds a bit of an odd mix, keep in mind it's got the taste of a good tiramisu, so don't be shy in sipping it.

Vietnam's also upping its game insofar as high end coffee is concerned. One famous coffee blend is Kopi Luwak, which you'll likely find across the country. It's an expensive premium blend due to the way it's produced, using weasels to select the best beans with their keen senses of smell. However, many holidaymakers today prefer to take their coffee a little more eco-friendly, without troubling the local wildlife, and the newest Vietnamese high end coffees are both ethical and enticing.

It all comes down to the difference between more bitter Robusta and more rich Arabica beans, and it's the latter that's becoming the mainstay nowadays. Coffee giants like Starbucks have put together robusta-arabica hybrids like Reserve Da Lat that fuses flavour with a fairer deal for the farmers. Bourbon arabica is another blend being specially made here, and Vietnam's commitment to experimenting with the flavours we know and love is starting to put the country on the map of more than a few coffee connoisseurs.

However you choose to spend your time in Vietnam, rest assured you'll never be short of a quick caffeine fix.

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