I’ve sipped on Italian espressos in Venice. I’ve had French press coffee in a famous café in Paris. I’ve been caffeinated by iced Freddos in Greece, countless cups of café cortado in Spain, and spent shameful amounts of dollars on instagrammable coffee in NYC. My conclusion?
Vietnamese coffee is the damn best. Hands down. (Or in this case, shaking.)
Before arriving in Vietnam, I knew coffee was “a thing”, but I had no freakin’ CLUE how incredible the coffee culture actually was. Coffee shops are on every corner of the country, from the smallest village to ginormous, frenetic Saigon. At any given hour of the day, old men are drinking cà phê on a miniature wooden stool in an open-air café with some buddies, and young giggly teens are gathered in groups at trendy cafés sipping on sugary coffee concoctions. I was so excited by the coffee when I arrived, I drank three cups my first day…and then my left eye started twitching, I couldn’t stop talking and my hands were shaking. (WARNING: try and control yourself. This is some strong shi*).
What’s Vietnamese coffee taste like?
Made with signature dark-roasted Robusta beans in a (veryyyyyy slow) drip press, it’s no wonder the first word that comes to mind when I sip a cup o’ Vietnamese joe is “robust”. The strong and bold flavor of the coffee is euphorically balanced out with the sweet, rich flavor of the condensed milk, creating a flavor utopia. Even those who are not sweet coffee drinkers will fall in love with the flavor balance; because Vietnamese coffee is in nature so strong and flavorful, it can withstand sweetness without losing it’s true “coffee” flavor.
Now for the good stuff. The 3 Signature Coffees You Must-Try in Vietnam:
1. Cà Phê Sữa Đá: Classic Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Let’s start with the basics. This is the standard way Vietnamese drink their coffee. Made with a layer of condensed milk at the bottom of a tall glass, the signature coffee press is then placed on top of the glass, and the dripping begins…verrrrrryyyyy slowlyyyyyyy. When it’s finished (don’t hold your breath), mix that baby up with a tall spoon, and pour it over a refreshing glass of ice filled to the rim. Voila! Enjoy your ice cold glass of rich, smooth, robust coffee goodness.
Where to get it: As the standard coffee in Vietnam, literally any coffee shop will make it well.
PRO TIP: Go to a standard traditional-styled one (you’ll see a bunch of old Viet men on small chairs staring at the sidewalk) for the best prices (.50 cents) but same quality as trendier cafés.
PRO TIP 2: If you want your coffee hot, order “Cà Phê Sữa Nóng.
Cà phê đá: Iced black coffee
This is only for the BRAVE. If you’re one of those coffee drinkers that insist real coffee should be enjoyed black, you can have it your way too. They’ll generally add heaping teaspoons full of sugar. If you’re a true coffee savage (in which case you get my respect), ask for “không đường” (no sugar) or “ít đường” (a touch of sugar).
Where to get it: Same as above, you can get this one anywhere!
2. Cà phê dừa: Coconut Coffee
Yup, it’s as good as it sounds. That strong, robust coffee flavor is blended with coconut cream, condensed milk and ice to create the most refreshing, straw-slurpin’, summery treat imaginable. Sit back in a leafy café, hide under the shade of a palm leaf, and keep cool from that tropical summer heat with a to-die-for glass of ice cold coconut coffee.
3. Cà Phê Trứng: Egg Coffee
And the winner goes toooooo… EGG COFFEE! No no, it’s not coffee with an egg plopped on top and I swear I haven’t gone crazy. It’s coffee topped with a creamy, frothy layer of whipped egg yolk and sugar, creating a creamy, decadent custard-like consistency. Kind of like the caramelized flavor of crème brûlée, but in custard form…served piping hot with that strong full-bodied Vietnamese coffee. Ok, you see why it’s my favorite? Traditionally from Hanoi, the northern parts of the country tend to get chilly this time of year. There is nothing…I repeat NOTHING, better to warm you up than a hot, creamy, sweet, frothy, whipped egg coffee confection. In fact, I am so obsessed with egg coffee that I went to my favorite café and had them teach me how it’s made! Watch the video:
Where to get it: As I mentioned, it comes from Hanoi. After trying a bunch in Hanoi, I gotta’ say…the BEST I’ve had is right here in Da Nang! Go to Maisam Alnam Cafe ( 12 Lê Thánh Tông in the city center) and prepare to be blown away.