As one of top ten coffee producing countries in the world, Vietnam has famous coffee brands such as Central Highlands Coffee, Trung Nguyen Coffee, Buon Ma Thuat coffee. Along with a variety of coffee brands, Vietnam coffee culture are also quite diverse. Working in Vietnam for a long time, I had chances to visit 3 large regions of the country (which are so-called the North, the South, and the Central) and saw the differences in the way people in each region enjoy their coffee. I myself found very interesting when observing and discovering these differences.
In general, Vietnamese people often enjoy a cup of coffee in a very different way so that foreign tourists may be surprised about this. In many other countries like America, Italy, France, etc, if I want to drink a cup of coffee, I must find a coffee shop or a semi-automatic coffee machine. In contrast, in Vietnam, especially in Saigon, I can easily buy a delicious cup of coffee on a street vendor. These types of street vendor have the presence in every corner of the city with very reasonable price. Coffee drinking culture in Vietnam has not only the distinct features in comparison to other places but also the differences in its own regions. Due to the influence of the weather and regional culture, coffee drinking habits of Hanoi (the North Vietnam), Hue (the Central Vietnam), and Saigon (the South Vietnam) are quite different.
The coffee culture of Hue can be encapsulated in three words, which are dense, sophisticated, and slow exactly similar to the characteristics of Hue people. In Hue, it rarely see an amusement parks, therefore, in the free time, local people often come to a coffee shop to enjoy a cup of coffee. Hue people seldom go to a luxury coffee store. On the other hand, they prefer to sit on a street stall along a river or on pavements. Being different from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Hue people just only drink filter coffee. Coffee shops in Hue only offer two choices for customers including iced coffee and lattes. Looking a way people here drink a cup of coffee in a slow and relaxing manner, I felt a little bit curious about how these cups tasted, hence, I tried one. At first, I felt this cup a bit hard to drink because it was strong dense and heavy. Late on, I tried drinking in Hue style instead of American styles as usual by slowly sipping my coffee. And guess what, it was really an exclusive experience. I could feel the smell of pure coffee beans and the sweet taste of milk mixed into each other.
Hanoi coffee culture is similar to Hue in terms of the drinking habit. Hanoi people also like to enjoy a cup of coffee in the most relaxing and comfortable way and chat with their friends. Nonetheless, Hanoi people do not drink coffee as much as Hue. Another different point is while Hue people love drinking coffee in the morning, Hanoian prefer enjoying in the evening when they have free time. Coffee in Hanoi is more diluted than Hue with more various options including latte, black coffee, and egg coffee without or with iced. Egg coffee is my favorite beverage in Hanoi. To have this cup, I saw a bartender whisking an egg yolk to frothy goodness with sweetened condensed milk. It's very delicious with good-looking appearance.
Unlike Hue and Hanoi, Saigon people consider coffee not only a drink to sip but also refreshment. First time arriving in Saigon, I was totally amazed when seeing a boy took a swig of coffee as if he were drinking sugarcane juice. The ingredient of Saigon coffee is quite special with more iced and less coffee. Entering into a coffee store in Saigon, I had a slight culture shock because whether I called a latte or a black coffee, waiters gave me a cup with the same flavor. One stranger thing, Saigon people often drink coffee in a glass with a straw. Their coffee is so sweet and diluted that I almost cannot feel the bitter taste of coffee. Anyway, I had an interesting experience with Vietnam coffee culture.
Working in Vietnam for a long time, I have gradually found my great love for this small but beautiful country. At first, like other foreign people, I had culture shock when starting living here. However, currently, to be quite honest, I was influenced a lot by Vietnamese culture, especially Vietnam coffee culture. Instead of sitting in a luxury coffee, I love drinking a cup in a street vendor, sipping a cup of coffee with strange flavor and admire surrounding landscapes and people. It may be the most relaxing moment in my day.