Vietnam is the world's largest producer of robusta coffee beans, but for many coffee connoisseurs, it’s Vietnam’s arabica coffee bean varietals that draw them in — especially the Arabica Bourbon cultivar.
Before you ask, there’s no whiskey in Arabica Bourbon — unless you choose to add some, of course. The Bourbon coffee bean cultivar, also known as the Moke cultivar, is a well known coffee varietal in Vietnam. And, along with baguettes (think: banh mi) and an alphabet system, coffee was introduced to the Vietnamese by the French, who colonized Vietnam in the 19th century.
The Arabica Bourbon (also known as Moka) coffee varietal originated in the port city of Mocha, Yemen in the 13th century, and was eventually introduced to the island of Bourbon, where it gets its name. Bourbon, now called Reunion, is a small, French-controlled island in the Indian Ocean. From Reunion, the French brought Bourbon coffee beans to Vietnam in 1875. After it was harvested and processed, it was marketed under the brand name “Arabica du Tonkin,” one of the first — but certainly not the last — Vietnamese coffee brand to be exported.
Because of it’s mildly acidic taste and sweet underlying notes, this Bourbon cultivar of coffee became associated with luxury and the upper class, making it prohibitively expensive when it reached the docks in France. In terms of taste, Bourbon coffee beans often give off chocolatey and rich aromas. Moka is the namesake for modern-day drink “mocha,” or coffee with chocolate.
“It’s super chocolatey, but it’s more complex than that,” Nguyen Coffee Supply founder Sahra Nguyen explained. “I also get heavy notes of pear and candied pecans — the depth of flavor in the blend really surprised me, so we’re actually going to be offering two types of Moka beans available on our online store!” Sarha said she’s excited to be bringing more diversity to the overall coffee experience through blending of new beans and Vietnamese coffee varietals. “The Moka is going to be a limited release, but it’s worth it,” she said. “Personally, when it comes to Moka, I’m an espresso or Aeropress fan, but the drip also tastes incredible.”
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Learn about the differences between robusta and arabica coffee here.