The best Vietnamese coffee has become the stuff of legend and it repeatedly ranks top on lists of the best coffee in the world. Travelers to Vietnam bring home fond memories of a strong, rich, and satisfying coffee and stories about it appear everywhere. If the term Vietnamese coffee only brings to mind the black variety served with ice and condensed milk, you might want to look a little closer at Vietnam’s vibrant coffee scene.

Black coffee

Vietnamese black coffee. Via: Ben and Debs Blench on / CC BY-NC-SA

Whilst egg coffee may seem like the result of an accident, Vietnamese black coffee has been shaped in response to its environment. If you think there is nothing new in coffee with sugar—oh my, you are in for a real treat.

Vietnamese black coffee is hard to forget and this version is as close to nature as it can possibly get. The burnt chocolatey roast arabica is addictive and particularly strong. The bitterness is neutralized by a little sugar and ice cubes. Although the version with condensed milk is more amusing, this black elixir is way more refreshing. All three have the added benefit of going down like ice cream.

Ca phe trung

Vietnamese egg coffee

Ca phe trung (egg coffee) is arguably the strangest and most captivating thing in Vietnamese food culture. Its yellow color brings to mind the sweet smell of vanilla and the place where it’s served evokes a feeling of nostalgia. It’s also a reminder of the love affair between France and Vietnam: The French brought the coffee and the Vietnamese put their own spin on it. Despite what the name implies, ca phe trung doesn’t have a slimy or sickly taste, but rather it is sweet and light.

The famous egg coffee is a recent addition to Vietnam’s rich culinary culture. Its creator, Mr. Giang, used to work as a barista at Metropole. The shortage of milk back then forced him to find a substitute and so egg coffee was born. The new beverage was such a success that he opened his own coffee shop. The recipe was passed down to his children, who went on to run their own coffee business.

Egg, coffee powder, a bit of butter, cheese, and condensed milk, that’s all his son, Mr. Dao, the current proprietor of Giang ca phe, is willing to reveal. The secret to an authentic cup of egg coffee is kept by the family. This keeps the method of making it secure and also acts as motivation for the next generation to continue the family tradition.

Several shops have attempted to recreate the success of Mr. Giang’s egg coffee but none can rival the brews served at his coffee shop, Giang ca phe at number 39, Nguyen Huu Huan str. This tiny place is still the go-to venue for a quick egg coffee fix for Hanoi connoisseurs and travelers.

Ca phe sua da

Vietnamese black coffee with condensed milk. Via: Beyond Neon on Visual Hunt / CC BY

            The phrase ca phe sua da might sound exotic to foreigners’ ears, but it’s nothing fancy. The name just refers to the three main ingredients: coffee, ice cubes, and milk, not the regular type of milk but the condensed variety that appears in every grocery store in Vietnam. This ingredient creates the intense sweetness that can be found nowhere else in the world.

Vietnamese coffee is noted for its real coffee kick. There is no shortcut to an excellent cup of coffee other than to wait patiently for the coffee to drip down from a small, filter-bottomed pot over the condensed milk. It is then stirred and poured over ice cubes. The strong coffee brew cuts through the milk and ice, creating an ice-cream-like taste.