Changing Coffee Habits in Vietnam: From Tradition to Trend

Changing Coffee Habits in Vietnam: From Tradition to Trend

Vietnam has a long and storied coffee culture that is rapidly changing today. Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by French colonists in the 19th century and has become ingrained in Vietnamese society and culture. However, in recent years, a new coffee trend has emerged in Vietnam: specialty coffee. This new trend is transforming how Vietnamese people relate to and consume this beloved beverage.

1. A Brief History of Coffee in Vietnam

Coffee was first brought to Vietnam in 1857 by French Catholic missionaries. Coffee farming and production grew significantly under French colonial rule from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. The French favored the hardy, high-yielding Robusta coffee varietal which was well-suited to Vietnam's tropical climate and resistant to disease. Coffee farming was concentrated in Vietnam's Central Highlands region, and this region remains the heart of coffee production in Vietnam today.

Following independence and partition in the 1950s, both North and South Vietnam encouraged coffee cultivation. After reunification in 1976, the Vietnamese government strongly promoted coffee production as an export commodity. Coffee farming saw particularly rapid expansion from the 1990s onward as Vietnam transitioned to a market economy.

Today, Vietnam is the world's second largest coffee producer after Brazil, supplying around 20% of the global coffee market. Here are some key facts about the coffee industry in Vietnam:

  • 1.7 million metric tons of coffee produced in 2020.
  • $3.68 billion in coffee exports in 2021.
  • 97% of coffee exported is Robusta beans.
  • Key export markets are Germany, USA, Italy, Spain, Japan.

2. Tradition of Vietnamese Coffee Culture

Coffee holds an important place in Vietnam's culture, daily life, and economy. Here are some of the key aspects of Vietnam's traditional coffee culture:

2.1 Key Aspects
  • Strong, bitter, highly caffeinated taste profile.
  • Robusta beans and coarse grind preferred.
  • Brewed using a small metal drip filter called a phin.
  • Consumed with sweetened condensed milk.
  • Coffee is routinely drunk after meals or as an afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Coffee shops are simple, no-frills spaces for socializing.
2.2 Cultural Significance
  • Coffee culture reflects Vietnamese pragmatism and collectivism.
  • Sharing coffee is important social ritual.
  • Coffee shops are community hubs.
  • Coffee farming is source of national pride.
  • Coffee production/export is economically vital.

So Vietnamese coffee culture has traditionally centered around bitter, potent Robusta coffee served simply with sweetened milk.

3. The Rise of Specialty Coffee in Vietnam

So for generations, Vietnamese coffee culture was defined by strong, bitter tasting Robusta coffee enjoyed with sweetened condensed milk at ubiquitous, no-frills coffee shops.

In the early 2010s, a new specialty coffee trend emerged in Vietnam's major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Here's an overview of how this specialty coffee movement developed:

3.1 Specialty Coffee Arrives
  • Foreign-educated Vietnamese opened the first specialty coffee shops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in the early 2010s.
  • They introduced methods like pour over, cold brew, latte art.
  • More sophisticated coffee shops catering to middle class consumers emerged.
  • Barista competitions were introduced.
  • International coffee brands like Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf entered Vietnam.
3.2 Features of Vietnam's Specialty Coffee Scene

Specialty coffee in Vietnam has these key characteristics:

  • Careful sourcing of high quality Arabica coffee beans
  • Use of dedicated specialty brewing equipment
  • Focus on meticulous roasting, grinding, and preparation
  • Emphasis on educating consumers about coffee quality
  • Beautiful, design-focused coffee shops

So it's about quality, education, and experience.

4. Changing Coffee Consumption Habits

4.1 New Consumer Demographics
  • Specialty coffee mainly consumed by younger urban middle-to-upper-class Vietnamese.
  • Seeking "third-wave" coffee shops as hip spaces for social media-worthy experiences.
  • Willing to pay higher prices for premium products.
  • Aspire to sophistication, cosmopolitan tastes.
4.2 Shifting Attitudes About Coffee
  • Greater appreciation for flavor nuances, origin distinctions.
  • Embracing lighter roasts, single origin beans.
  • Move away from instant coffee, sugary additive-heavy drinks.
  • Coffee seen as part of aspirational lifestyle - along with craft beer, wine.
  • Barista viewed as skilled profession requiring training and knowledge.

5. Ongoing Challenges and Opportunities

5.1 Obstacles for Specialty Coffee in Vietnam
  • Need to increase consumer education beyond major cities.
  • Local costs often make quality equipment prohibitively expensive.
  • Maintaining coffee quality from crop to cup.
  • Sourcing and importing specialty beans in small batches remains difficult.
5.2 Future Possibilities
  • Expanding specialty coffee to other regions beyond major metros.
  • Building a robust, ethical domestic specialty coffee supply chain.
  • Training more Vietnamese baristas and coffee professionals.
  • Vietnam's specialty beans gain international recognition.
  • Specialty coffee transforms from niche to mainstream.

6. The Future of Vietnamese Coffee Culture

  • Coffee production and export will remain pillar of Vietnam's economy.
  • Traditional coffee culture will continue in rural areas and with older generation.
  • Among youth and rising middle class, specialty coffee trend will prevail.
  • Vietnam will become a key specialty coffee producer in Southeast Asia.
  • Coffee culture will evolve as Vietnam modernizes but maintain unique local characteristics.

So specialty coffee has elevated coffee's status from daily staple to artisanal product.

Opportunities and Challenges Ahead

Vietnam's specialty coffee scene has strong momentum but still faces some hurdles:

  • Need to spread specialty coffee culture beyond major cities
  • Making quality coffee affordable and accessible
  • Building a robust specialty coffee supply chain
  • Training more Vietnamese coffee professionals

But the future looks bright for specialty coffee to move from niche to mainstream.

So Vietnam's specialty coffee culture is still maturing but has major growth potential. Exciting times are ahead for Vietnamese specialty coffee!


Coffee has been an integral part of Vietnam's culture and economy for over 150 years. While traditional coffee habits still prevail in much of the country, a new specialty coffee culture is emerging among Vietnam's youth and middle class. This signals an exciting shift as Vietnamese coffee connoisseurship develops and Vietnamese beans gain renown. However, coffee will remain vital to Vietnam's national identity and economic livelihood for generations to come. The future of coffee in Vietnam will likely reflect both old and new traditions.

Coffee has a long and storied tradition in Vietnam. For generations it was enjoyed in simple ways that focused on comfort, conviviality and communing over the daily cup.

But Vietnam’s coffee habits have been transforming, especially in urban areas. New specialty coffee trends have emerged as economic development and global connectivity expose Vietnamese youth to worldwide coffee culture.

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Viet Specialty Coffee

We grew up around coffee, for over two generations. You could say we’re steeped in it! Gia Lai province, our home, is one of the most important coffee growing regions in Vietnam and making Gia Lai a little more famous would be a great joy. The best way we can do that is to consistently produce the best specialty coffee in Vietnam. And maybe, who knows, the world!