Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

Salty Cream in Your Morning Brew?

Exploring the Allure of Vietnam’s Specialty Coffees on the Global Stage


In the bustling world of specialty coffee, Vietnam has been making waves with its unique and intriguing brews. Once known primarily for mass-produced Robusta beans, the country is now gaining recognition for its specialty Arabica beans. Among these, there’s a particular group of Vietnamese coffees that have been causing quite the stir – those with an unusual yet captivating taste of salty cream. Let’s dive deeper into this exotic coffee scene and discover what makes these Vietnamese coffees so alluring on the global stage.

Unique Terroir:

The secret lies in Vietnam’s unique terroir, specifically in the Central Highlands region where most of these specialty coffees are grown. Here, the Bourbon and Catimor varieties flourish, creating a complex taste profile that includes fruity, floral, spicy, and even savory notes. However, it’s the salty cream flavor that sets these Vietnamese beans apart from others, attracting coffee connoisseurs from around the world.

Natural Processing:

The production method plays a significant role in the development of this unique taste. Many Vietnamese farmers still use the natural processing technique, which involves drying beans directly under the sun after being harvested. This method can result in various flavor compounds that contribute to the coffee’s distinctiveness, including the salty cream taste.

Pairing Suggestions:

If you’re intrigued by this salty cream coffee phenomenon and are considering trying one, remember that its complex taste profile pairs well with a variety of foods. From sweet desserts to savory dishes, these Vietnamese specialty coffees can elevate your culinary experience.

&I. Introduction

&Brief overview of the global coffee market

The global coffee market is a significant sector in the agriculture industry, with an estimated size of around $225 billion in 2020. The market is projected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.5% from 2021 to 2028, primarily due to increasing consumption in emerging economies and the rise of specialty coffee. The major coffee-producing regions include South America, Central America, Africa, and Asia. Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Indonesia are among the top major players.

&Hook: Introduce the concept of Vietnam’s unique coffee culture and its increasing popularity on the world stage

Amidst this bustling global coffee market, one country is making a name for itself with its unique coffee culture: Vietnam. While Vietnam ranks as the world’s second-largest coffee producer, its

specialty coffee sector

is rapidly gaining global recognition. With a rich history of coffee cultivation that dates back to the French colonial era and a unique terroir, Vietnam’s coffee is not just about mass production but also about authenticity and taste.

Let us delve deeper into the story of Vietnam’s coffee culture and its increasing popularity on the world stage.

Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

Vietnam’s Coffee Landscape

Vietnam, the world’s second-largest coffee producer, boasts an intriguing coffee landscape shaped by its unique geographical location and historical context.

Geographical location and climate conditions

Vietnam’s coffee heartland lies in the South Central Region, specifically in the provinces of Lam Dong, Dak Lak, and Kon Tum. This region benefits from a tropical climate with an average temperature of 25°C, two monsoons, and plenty of rainfall. The Central Highlands provide the ideal terrain for coffee cultivation with their steep slopes and high altitudes.

Historical context of coffee cultivation in Vietnam

Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam during the French colonial period (1859-1954). The French, who had already established coffee plantations in their colonies in Africa and Latin America, saw potential in Vietnam’s climate and geography. They began cultivating coffee in the Central Highlands, establishing large plantations using forced labor from local people. After independence, the Vietnamese government encouraged small-scale coffee farming as part of a rural development strategy.

French colonial influence

Under the French, Vietnamese coffee was primarily grown for export to Europe. The colonial powers favored robusta beans due to their higher yield and resistance to diseases. This preference set the stage for Vietnam’s future dominance in global coffee production, which remains largely based on robusta cultivation.

Post-independence development

Post-independence, the Vietnamese government implemented agrarian reforms to redistribute land and promote smallholder coffee farming. This transition led to a significant increase in the number of farmers involved in coffee production, contributing to Vietnam’s rapid growth as a major global player in the coffee industry.

Coffee production statistics and trends

As of 2021, Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee producer, behind Brazil. The country exports approximately 2.6 million bags of coffee annually, primarily robusta beans. Robusta accounts for about 97% of Vietnam’s total coffee production. The trend towards larger-scale commercial farming has continued, with many smallholders joining cooperatives to increase efficiency and compete in the global market.

Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

I Unique Aspects of Vietnamese Coffee: Processing Methods

Vietnam’s coffee processing methods set it apart from other coffee-producing countries. Traditional methods, with a focus on Robusta beans and the use of both wet-processing and traditional fermentation, contribute to Vietnamese coffee’s distinctive flavor profile.

A.Wet-processing methods: Water processing (washed)

Wet-processing, also known as the water processing method or washed method, involves separating the beans from the cherries immediately after they’re picked and then fermenting them in water. This process results in a cleaner, brighter cup of coffee with a more pronounced acidity. Benefits include a higher quality bean and better consistency in the final product. However, drawbacks include increased labor costs and time-consuming processing due to the need for careful sorting and cleaning of the beans before roasting.

A.1.Traditional fermentation process

Traditional fermentation is a crucial step in Vietnamese coffee production. The beans are submerged in water for approximately 24 hours during which they undergo fermentation. This process helps to break down the sugars present in the coffee beans, resulting in a unique flavor profile. However, it is important to note that this process can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, adding to the overall cost of production.

A.Modern processing methods: Dry-processing and hybrid approaches

Modern processing methods, including dry-processing and hybrid approaches, have gained popularity due to their cost savings and efficiency. In the dry-processing method, the cherries are spread out in the sun to dry naturally without being submerged in water. This method significantly reduces labor costs and allows for a quicker turnaround. However, it results in lower quality beans with inconsistent flavor profiles due to the risk of over- or under-fermentation during the drying process.

B.Benefits: Cost savings, efficiency

Benefits of modern processing methods include cost savings and increased efficiency as a result of minimal water usage, reduced labor requirements, and faster turnaround times.

B.Drawbacks: Lower quality, inconsistent flavor profile

Drawbacks include the production of lower quality beans due to uneven fermentation and inconsistent flavor profiles, which may not appeal to consumers seeking a high-quality cup of coffee.

Impact on taste and consumer preferences

The unique aspects of Vietnamese coffee processing, both traditional and modern methods, significantly influence the taste and consumer preferences. With a focus on Robusta beans and various processing techniques, Vietnamese coffee offers a bold, rich flavor profile that caters to those who prefer a strong, full-bodied cup. However, as consumer preferences shift towards higher quality beans and more nuanced flavor profiles, there may be an increasing demand for Vietnamese coffee produced using traditional wet-processing methods to maintain the distinctive taste while improving overall quality.

Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

Unique Aspects of Vietnamese Coffee: Additives and Preparation

Vietnamese coffee is renowned for its distinctive taste and preparation methods, which set it apart from other coffee-producing regions. One intriguing aspect of Vietnamese coffee culture is the use of additives, such as salt and cream, in its preparation.

Use of additives: Salt and Cream

Salt: Vietnamese coffee’s unusual addition of salt may seem counterintuitive, but it enhances the coffee’s taste profile. This practice originated during the French colonial era when sugar was expensive. Salt was used instead to bring out the bitter and sour flavors of the coffee beans. Today, many Vietnamese coffee lovers continue this tradition as a way to accentuate the unique flavors in their brews.

Cream: Condensed milk is another common addition to Vietnamese coffee, most notably in the popular Vietnamese iced coffee (Cà phê sữa đá) preparation. This sweet, creamy addition not only provides a rich texture but also balances the bitterness of the coffee. While some health concerns surround the high sugar content in condensed milk, many believe that it is an integral part of the cultural experience. Alternatively, fresh milk or evaporated milk can be used instead for those seeking a lower-sugar alternative.

Traditional preparation methods: Phin filter, Vietnamese iced coffee (Cà phê sữa đá), and egg coffee

Preparation steps and techniques

Phin filter: This traditional Vietnamese coffee maker is known for its simplicity and control over the brewing process. It consists of a metal filter that sits on top of a cup or glass. Ground coffee is placed in the filter, which is then soaked with hot water before the brewing process begins. Hot water is slowly poured over the coffee grounds and drips through to create a strong, flavorful coffee.

Vietnamese iced coffee (Cà phê sữa đá): This popular Vietnamese coffee preparation involves brewing strong coffee using a Phin filter and pouring it over ice. Condensed milk is added to the glass before the hot coffee is poured in. As the coffee cools, the ice melts, diluting the coffee and creating a deliciously sweet and creamy beverage.

Egg coffee: This unique Vietnamese coffee creation involves brewing strong coffee using a Phin filter and whisking an egg yolk with sugar and hot water to create a frothy, creamy topper. The brewed coffee is poured into a glass with ice. The frothy egg mixture is then gently poured on top of the coffee. This rich, textured coffee experience provides a perfect balance between the strong coffee flavors and the creamy egg topping.

Influence on global coffee culture

Vietnamese coffee’s unique additives and preparation methods have inspired adaptations, fusion foods, and specialty cafes around the world. From Vietnamese coffee shops in New York City to coffee-infused dishes at international restaurants, Vietnamese coffee’s influence is undeniable. The fusion of traditional Vietnamese coffee preparation with various global culinary influences continues to shape and expand the world of coffee culture.

Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

V. Market Drivers for Vietnam’s Coffee on the Global Stage:

Quality improvement initiatives and certifications

  1. SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) recognition:
  2. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a leading organization in the coffee industry that sets standards for coffee quality. Vietnam’s coffee farmers are increasingly focusing on SCA recognition to enhance their branding, pricing, and distribution opportunities in the global market. With SCA certification, Vietnamese coffee producers can differentiate themselves from other mass-produced coffee beans and cater to the growing demand for specialty coffee.

  • Organic and Fair Trade certifications:
  • Moreover, Vietnamese coffee farmers are increasingly adopting organic and Fair Trade certifications to cater to consumers seeking sustainable production methods and ethical labor practices. These certifications allow Vietnam’s coffee to be marketed as ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, and of high quality, which can command higher prices in the global coffee market.

    Innovative farming techniques and technology adoption

    1. Agroforestry systems:
    2. Another key market driver is the adoption of innovative farming techniques, with a particular emphasis on agroforestry systems. Agroforestry involves growing coffee under a canopy of trees, providing shade and reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. This sustainable production method also supports crop diversity and biodiversity conservation, making Vietnamese coffee more attractive to eco-conscious consumers.

  • Use of precision farming technology:
  • Furthermore, the use of precision farming technology such as GPS mapping and drones is becoming increasingly popular among Vietnamese coffee farmers. By leveraging technology to optimize crop yields, improve quality, and reduce costs, these farmers can position themselves as efficient and innovative producers in the global market.

    Strategic partnerships with international roasters and retailers

    Lastly, strategic partnerships with international roasters and retailers play a crucial role in Vietnam’s coffee presence on the global stage. Collaborations between Vietnamese coffee producers and renowned brands can result in limited edition blends, generating buzz and excitement among coffee consumers. Additionally, investments by international players in local infrastructure and processing facilities can help improve the overall quality of Vietnamese coffee and strengthen its global competitiveness.

    Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

    VI. Challenges and Opportunities for Vietnam’s Coffee Industry

    Domestic challenges:

    1. Addressing infrastructural bottlenecks: Improving roads and storage facilities is crucial for Vietnam’s coffee industry to overcome transportation challenges. Inadequate infrastructure can lead to significant losses due to damaged or spoiled beans during transit.
    2. Labor regulations and wages: Ensuring fair labor practices and competitive wages is essential to maintain a steady workforce. With the increasing global demand for coffee, Vietnamese farmers must be able to compete in the market while adhering to labor regulations.
    3. Environmental concerns: Sustainable farming practices are vital for Vietnam’s coffee industry. Addressing issues like deforestation and excessive water usage is necessary to maintain the long-term viability of the industry while preserving the environment.

    Global challenges:

    1. Competition from established coffee-producing countries: Vietnam faces stiff competition from established coffee-producing nations such as Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia. To differentiate itself, Vietnam can focus on unique processing methods and flavors to appeal to diverse consumer tastes.
    2. Adapting to changing consumer preferences: In today’s global market, consumers increasingly demand sustainable and traceable coffee production. Vietnam must respond to these evolving preferences by implementing best practices in sustainability, transparency, and certification.


    1. Growing demand for specialty and sustainable coffee: The growing trend towards premium coffee offerings presents an excellent opportunity for Vietnam. Capitalizing on this demand by focusing on high-quality, sustainably produced beans can help build brand recognition and consumer loyalty.

    Collaborative efforts to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities:

    1. Public-private partnerships for infrastructure development: Collaborative efforts between the government and private sector can lead to significant improvements in infrastructure, making it easier for farmers to transport their crops and reach international markets.
    2. Sustainability initiatives with international organizations and stakeholders: Partnerships with international organizations, such as the International Coffee Organization or Fairtrade, can help Vietnam address environmental concerns while ensuring fair labor practices and competitive wages. This approach will ultimately benefit both farmers and consumers.

    Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world

    V Conclusion

    Vietnam’s coffee industry has been a hidden gem, offering unique and intriguing aspects that set it apart from the conventional coffee-growing regions. With its distinct taste profile, which can be attributed to the use of robusta beans and unique processing methods like the wet-processed Robusta and the traditional phin filter, Vietnamese coffee has been gaining popularity both locally and globally. The growing recognition of this specialty coffee can be seen through various avenues such as specialty coffee shops, online marketplaces, and international competitions.

    Recap of the unique aspects of Vietnamese coffee

    Robusta beans, which are predominantly used in Vietnam for coffee production, contain almost twice the amount of caffeine compared to Arabica beans. This results in a stronger and more robust flavor, which is often described as having earthy and nutty notes with a slight bitter aftertaste. Additionally, the wet-processed Robusta method, used in Vietnam, results in a coffee with bright acidity and fruity undertones.

    Encouragement for readers to explore this fascinating corner of the coffee world

    As more and more people are becoming coffee connoisseurs, it is essential to broaden one’s horizons beyond the traditional coffee-growing regions. Vietnamese coffee offers a unique experience with its bold and complex flavors, making it an exciting addition to any coffee lover’s journey.

    Final thoughts on the future of Vietnam’s specialty coffee industry

    The growing popularity of Vietnamese coffee presents an excellent opportunity for farmers, roasters, and entrepreneurs in Vietnam to capitalize on this trend. Investment in sustainable farming practices and modern processing techniques can lead to higher quality coffee beans that cater to the evolving tastes of consumers. Furthermore, collaborations with international specialty coffee brands can help Vietnam’s coffee industry gain more recognition and exposure on a global scale.

    Vietnam’s role in shaping the global coffee culture

    As Vietnam’s specialty coffee industry continues to grow, it is poised to make a significant impact on the global coffee culture. By offering unique and complex flavors, Vietnam can provide coffee lovers with new experiences that challenge their palates and broaden their understanding of the diverse world of coffee. With its rich history, passion for coffee, and unique growing conditions, Vietnam is well-positioned to become a major player in the global coffee scene.