Coffee, Tea, or Me? Coffee Culture in Vietnam

Even if I quit coffee already, it’s still nice to learn about how the coffee culture in Vietnam developed and contributed to their economy and identity.

Back when I was over-consuming coffee during my graduate studies days (even if I know it almost always messes up with my mood, sleep, and anxiety levels), I tried to explore the different ways coffee is consumed all over the world. In a former American colony like the Philippines, Starbucks is a big hit. I love Starbucks, but personally, I will always vouch for McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. That’s just me.

I was born in Batangas Province in the Philippines, and it is one of the biggest coffee producers in the country. Our province prides itself on Kapeng Barako, which belongs to the Liberica family.

Anyhoo, I had the chance to travel to Ho Chi Minh City and get a legitimate glimpse of its coffee culture, and I want to understand the uniqueness of Vietnamese coffee. Prior to my Vietnam trip, the closest thing I can get to a legit Vietnamese coffee in the Philippines are from Banh Mi Kitchen, Highlands Coffee, and that small restaurant that my high school classmate put up in our hometown. This is it, Vietnamese coffee, here I come!

After an event at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Culture, my classmates and I went to explore the Ben Thanh Market. As a broke-ass graduate student slash rank-and-file government office girl, I resisted every single opportunity to buy something. Boy, I even spent 15 minutes deciding whether to get that beautiful pair of earrings while trying to reason with myself regarding my financial choices while converting its price to Philippine Peso.

Needless to say, I ended up not getting the earrings.

I went around the market and observed, like how the late Anthony Bourdain would always recommend (love you, Tony!). It looked more organized than a typical local market in the Philippines (probably because it’s also a tourist destination at the same time), several parts of it resembles a typical Philippine market, and it’s amazing to see locals eating banh mi and pho on the streets while I can only eat such food in upscale restaurants in Manila.

I took street photography shots, of course. And no, I ended up NOT buying any coffee in the market.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Coffee Culture in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Zero regrets, because I have a strong feeling then that I will have the chance to go back to Vietnam and buy a coffee there in the future. Also, I need to experience more than that, because the coffee culture in Vietnam is more than the strong coffee: they also, in some occasions, serve coffee with egg.

Because of the pandemic, I’ve been immersing myself with armchair traveling, and I was able to get hold of Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour book where I was able to see the coffee culture around the world. Apparently, Vietnam is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world. Wow! I was also able to read several write-ups from the internet about the history of Vietnamese coffee.

I quit coffee since 3 months ago. I’ve transitioned into being a tea person. Is Vietnamese coffee available in decaf? If so, wait for me, Vietnam!

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