The History of Arabica du Tonkin, the First Exported Vietnamese Coffee Brand
Arabica du Tonkin, the first exported Vietnamese coffee brand, got its start after France colonized the land, introducing an alphabet system, baguettes, and coffee — specifically, Moka.
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. In fact, the origin of the phrase cà phê (Vietnamese for “coffee”) comes from the French word café (pronounced “kah-fey”).
After the coffee 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. Arabica du Tonkin shipped Moka coffee back to France, where its unique flavor profile made it widely popular among nobility and the upper class, earning Arabica du Tonkin a spot in history and cementing Vietnam’s position as one of the world’s leading coffee exporting countries.
Once it was clear that coffee was a viable crop, the coffee industry in Vietnam exploded throughout the country, and after a slow-down during the Vietnam War, the southeast Asian country became the coffee industry powerhouse that it is today — the second largest producer of coffee beans in the world and the number one producer of robusta coffee beans globally.
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