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The coffee plant was brought by the French Colonists to Vietnam in 1857, grown for French missionaries in the monasteries. Vietnam’s rich soil and tropical climate ensured that the coffee plant thrived and continued to be grown in the country. While the country’s Central Highlands were found to be the ideal location for the expansion of coffee production, it was only after the Vietnam War that cultivation of coffee plants began in earnest in the region.
After the Vietnam War, the Communist Party incentivise migration to rural areas such as the Central Highlands in part to address unemployment. The population of the Central Highlands tripled from 1975 to 2018, contributing the growth of coffee production in the country. Since 1975, coffee production in Vietnam has grown 100 times, catapulting it to the world’s 2nd largest coffee producer.
Vietnam focuses on the production of Robusta coffee, which makes up 97% of its coffee production, contributing to 40% of the world’s Robusta coffee exports. Vietnam’s Robusta coffee yield is the highest per hectare worldwide, 80% of which is grown in the Central Highlands region. Most coffee plantations in Vietnam is owned by smallholders, with plot size ranging from 1-50 hectares, while the bigger coffee plantations (500 hectares and above) are operated by state-owned enterprises. Typically, Vietnamese coffee producers blend several varieties of beans to balance the flavour characteristics as well as to economise costs.
Vietnamese coffee is usually made in a Vietnamese coffee drip. Ground coffee is tamped into the drip and hot water is poured over, dripping slowly into a glass. Traditionally, condensed milk is used to sweeten the coffee due to its easy availability and longer shelf-life, this drink is called cà phê sữa. For an iced version, ask for cà phê sữa đá. A Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and coconut milk is called bạc xỉu. Another alternative is cà phê trứng – coffee with condensed milk and raw egg yolks, the Vietnamese version of a cappuccino. Drop by the famous Trung Nguyen outlet we’ve covered previously in our Ho Chi Minh City Quick City Guide to partake in the local potent brew.