Amidst the populated sidewalks with countless motorbikes sprawling over the streets like water trying to run through rocks, Vietnamese cities are densely packed with chaotic movement. Yet, in all its overwhelming energy, the Vietnamese have definitely taken on the tradition of its once French colonists: drinking coffee.
Spelled “ca phe” and pronounced “café,” Vietnamese locals can be seen sitting on pieces of cardboard on the sidewalk to high-end café parlors with dramatic garden landscapes and brick walls adorned with ivy. It is common for development teams or groups to take a ca phe break together for work and social discussions. Vietnamese professionals gather in groups scattered across the city spending their afternoons at cafes that it would be difficult for any visiting professional to not experience this coffee culture. The business is serious but the coffee is the enjoyment. The café culture in Viet Nam is one that has been overlooked but remains to be the epicenter of the people.
Second only to Brazil, Viet Nam follows as the largest exporter of coffee. The country mainly exports robusta coffee beans, a lesser quality to arabica which is considered the best containing richer flavors. Although coffee connoisseurs can turn their noses to Viet Nam’s cheaper and less temperamental crop, they cannot however, dismiss the global market for instant coffee.
To those unfamiliar with Vietnamese coffee, it is known to have the density and feel of thick, black molasses. Its texture matches its strength in jolt. For the faint of heart, most foreigners order a ca phe sua da, which is coffee mixed with condensed sweet milk and ice. One sip evokes flavors recognizable in premium Belgium chocolate. The science to capture the sweet savor is not only the perfect blend of coffee and sweetened milk, but also the selection and the roast of beans.
The majority of coffee beans are grown in the central region of Viet Nam. Many tourists visit the central city Da Lat, enjoying the cool brisk air encompassing the city within the mountains. Lush and green, Da Lat has its fair share of sprawling fields lined with robusta, arabica, and mocha beans. Famous cafes in the area are run by long time café afficionados who have found the flawless union of mocha for sweetness and robusta for a strong finishing taste. Its unique flavor is attributed to its non-conventional roasting techniques where the beans are roasted slowly and in lower temperatures and normally added with butter and salt.
Either hot or chilled, with or without milk, the ca phe is at the core of Vietnamese culture. Rising with the sun, locals require their strong shot of ca phe, drinking an average of four cups a day. Women have also begun drinking ca phes, converging in four story cafes fully equipped with wall-rocked gardens and koi ponds linking one paradise to another with miniature Japanese bridges behind secluded walls. A country so abundant with enriched culture, its ca phe only adds to its unique experience.
Tweet Lolita Guevarra: @lolitaguevarra
Tweet Lolita’s curiosity in individuals and their stories led she to work as a freelance journalist in southeast Asia. While living in Vietnam for five years. She wrote travel and trend features for lifestyle and airline magazines, and even held the position as managing editor at LogiGear, a software testing firm, distributing its own electronic magazine.