As the second largest producer of coffee in the world, Vietnam has its coffee all around the world with plenty of different brands in every market. With such a large impact on the global coffee industry, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy many kinds of coffee from Vietnam. Despite misconceptions that Vietnamese coffee is solely meant to be cheap and mass-produced, many farmers are growing products that diversify these offerings– these days, there’s everything from specialty robusta to arabica and more! In order to explore different Vietnamese coffee brands, we’ll first need to understand the kinds of coffee Vietnam produces.
What are the types of Vietnamese coffee?
Crafted for all kinds of brewing, every sip of Vietnamese coffee reflects the history, culture, and geography of its homeland. As the world’s second-largest coffee grower and exporter, Vietnam produces various types of coffee beans including: robusta, arabica, and liberica.
Although arabica is the most common type of coffee worldwide, robusta accounts for more than 90% of Vietnam’s coffee output. Harvested nationwide, each soil type produces slightly different flavors. Stronger and more bitter than arabica, dry processing and roasting enhance these characteristics, which is why many Vietnamese coffee drinkers developed the habit of adding sweetened condensed milk.
Although in far smaller quantities, Vietnam produces four varieties of arabica coffee:
- Catimor is the main arabica variety grown in Vietnam, underpinned by its resistance to leaf rust and stable yield. Introduced in 1984, this aromatic bean has an intense flavor;
- Typica is the world’s oldest coffee, with a semi-sweet fruity flavor. However, it is now being replaced by higher-yielding varieties on plantations around Da Lat City, due to its low productivity;
- Moka (aka Bourbon) is a coffee with a mutation that was brought to Vietnam by the French, from colonial Bourbon Island in the Indian Ocean. Renamed moka, its strong taste and striking aroma soon made it a firm favorite in what was then French Indochina;
- Catual is a slightly sweet and fruity coffee that was introduced to Vietnam during the 1980s. However, its inability to withstand leaf rust undermines its otherwise good yields, resulting in a disappointing performance for this hybrid.
Liberica coffee is not widely grown, due to its poor yield and sour taste, although this variety can tolerate drought. Classified as its subspecies, low-yieldexcelsa beans are usually mixed with arabica, as this bitter coffee has a strong flavor that recalls burnt wood.
BONUS: Civet coffee is made – wait for it! – from perfectly ripe coffee cherries that are eaten, partially digested, and then excreted by Asian palm civets. Originally ‘harvested’ by hand from wild civet scat by envious farmers too poor to buy ‘proper’ coffee beans, this unlikely delicacy is now farmed in Lâm Đồng Province. However, Mother Nature’s own ‘processing system’ is still needed to synthesize the cherries with digestive acids and other stomach enzymes. Eliminating bitterness, this semi-digestion results in a more aromatic roast with a vanilla scent and a caramel-chocolate flavor. Affectionately known as poop coffee, it’s also the world’s most expensive cup of joe!
History of Vietnamese coffee
Introduced to Vietnam by French colonists during the 1850s, arabica coffee was grown mainly in the northern region of the country. This was followed by robusta and excelsa coffees during the early decades of the 20th century, mainly in the Central Highlands of southern Vietnam.
Instead of adding fresh milk, which was in short supply in those days – and due to an incipient dairy industry, hot climate, and no refrigeration – French colonists offset the boldness of robusta coffee with shelf-stable sweetened condensed milk, resulting in the delicious hot or icedcà phê that is now available on every street corner in Vietnam.
More delicate arabica varietals were planted during the 1920s, particularly on the rich basalt soils of the temperate Central Highlands. This volcanic area is also perfect for growing other aromatic crops like cacao and pepper
Almost 100 years later, Vietnam’s coffee industry is booming, spurred by economic and political reforms during the 1990s. From then onwards, its output ramped up steadily by around 25% a year, with robusta easily outpacing less resistant varieties at over 90%.
Since then, Vietnamese coffee has firmed up its position on specialty coffee markets. Premium arabica beans can be roasted longer without burning, while the natural sweetness of robusta beans is enhanced by sun-drying, enriching their chocolatey undertones and lingering aftertaste. In fact, robusta beans harvested from the Đà Lạt Highlands are the secret ingredient in many Italian espressos!
What’s the best Vietnamese coffee brand?
When Vietnamese refugees streamed into the USA during the 1970s, they were eager to find a replacement for their favorite beverage: cà phê sữa đá. Since then, many imported varieties of Vietnamese coffee or Vietnamese-style coffee have proliferated in the U.S. Many Vietnamese Americans also associate coffee with Cafe Du Monde, which is actually a French coffee company that roasts with chicory. Though not actually Vietnamese or Vietnamese coffee, this brand has a strong presence among the Vietnamese diaspora – we’re not including it on this list since we’re talking exclusively about coffees that originate from Vietnam. These days, the offerings are becoming more widely available as the world wakes up to Vietnamese coffee. Here’s a breakdown of just a number of Vietnamese coffee brands today (note, this list is not exhaustive):
ChestBrew Coffee offers specialty Vietnamese coffee roasted and packaged in Vietnam. Its whole-bean coffee is roasted specially to make refreshingly cold and sweet cà phê sữa đá, as well as hot and cold brewed coffee. With an emphasis on caffeine, this company offers strong blends and varietals that are perfect for those who are caffeine fiends.
Copper Cow Coffee
Sourcing its coffee from sustainable organic farms around picturesque Đà Lạt Copper Cow Coffee carefully blends its signature robusta and arabica beans into a smoothly authentic beverage. Opting for a European-style roast, it highlights the natural flavors of its specialty beans. Additionally, its single-use coffee pouches are both novel and convenient, perfect for anyone on the go while craving strength and smoothness found in Vietnamese coffee.
Trung Nguyen offers a variety of coffee products in Vietnam and abroad. One of them, their G7 coffee, is a classic found in many Asian markets around the country. Just pure black coffee, each G7 Instant pouch fills a 7 oz cup, with only 20% less caffeine (60 mg) than an average serving of fresh-brewed coffee. This Trung Nguyen product is an instant mood booster, with some 0.2 g of natural sugar content in these beans. Organic and guaranteed fresh, convenient G7 3-in-1 Instant pouches contain only coffee, milk, and sugar. For fans of Vietnam’s traditional cà phê sữa đá, they are a budget-friendly energy kick that’s easy to make anywhere, anytime.
Lang Thang Coffee
Saigon Phin Daklak Pre-Ground Coffee is a signature custom-roasted blend from Lang Thang that features robusta, arabica, and soybeans grown on Vietnam’s high central Tay Nguyen plateau. Pre-ground and shipped directly from the coffee production facility in Saigon, its strong but smooth flavor is specially formulated for making refreshingcà phê sữa đá, served over ice. Mellow and moderately priced, this is a great summertime choice for anyone seeking a lower-key coffee experience.
Vinacafé Instant Coffee Mix
Purists may wince, but Vinacafé instant coffee mix – known as cà phê hòa tanin Vietnam – does a great job when energy flags. Flavorful and fragrant, it can be a lifesaver for busy people who are constantly on the go. Promising a rich natural aroma and premium taste, its three-in-one version is available in strong and regular versions. It is prepared from selected Buôn Mê Thuột coffee beans mixed with a top-quality creamer and sugar.
Nguyen Coffee Supply
You already know us! We offer fresh roasted Vietnamese coffee (no additives, fillers or artificial flavors) as the first direct-trade importer and roaster of single-origin Vietnamese coffee beans in the United States. Not only that, but we’re ensuring the longevity of the industry and the producers in Vietnam through our direct trade relationships and work to increase sustainable farming and economic empowerment through specialty coffee production.
So what is the best Vietnamese coffee brand?
Ultimately, we don’t believe there is a best Vietnamese coffee brand (and that’s coming from us). We believe in diversity of options and that the more, the merrier. The great thing about all of these Vietnamese coffee brands is that they are all versatile, allowing you to enjoy your coffee however you like for the most part. For those who enjoy convenience, perhaps a brand that has single serve coffees might be best. For those who want to enjoy the terroir of a specific region of Vietnam, other brands that offer single origin specialty beans might be the answer. The great thing is that there are options for everyone and anyone these days! The same might not be said even ten years ago, which is a testament to the growth of the Vietnamese coffee movement!