How has Coffee Expanded in Vietnam?

History of coffee development in Vietnam

The development of the coffee industry in Vietnam has gone through several stages, from its introduction by the French in the 19th century to its current status as one of the world’s leading coffee producers and exporters. Those are the key milestones and processes in the development of the coffee industry in Vietnam:

  1. Introduction of Coffee by the French (1850s): The French introduced coffee to Vietnam in the 1850s, primarily as Coffea arabica. Initially, coffee was grown in northern provinces like Tuyen Quang, Lang Son, and Ninh Binh. Coffea arabica was also cultivated in the central region, including Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces.
  2. Expansion to the Central Highlands: Coffee cultivation gradually expanded to the Central Highlands region. However, Coffea arabica faced challenges such as rust disease, leading to its replacement with Coffea canephora (Robusta) and Coffea excelsa.
  3. Government Support and Development (Post-1975): After the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, the government focused on developing the coffee industry. By the early 2000s, Vietnam became the world’s second-largest producer and exporter of coffee beans. Coffee production played a significant role in the country’s agricultural export turnover and GDP, especially in the Central Highlands.
  4. 1990s Coffee Boom: In the 1990s, Vietnam’s coffee production experienced rapid growth due to several factors: Implementation of land allocation policies to farmers.
    • Sharp increases in coffee prices in 1994 and between 1996 and 1998.
    • Migration of people from other regions to the Central Highlands for coffee cultivation.
    • Expansion of Robusta coffee cultivation, particularly in Daklak province, which became a major coffee-producing region.
  5. Challenges and Shifting Strategies: Vietnam’s coffee industry faces various challenges, including climate change, competition from other crops, aging coffee trees, and rising production costs combined with low global coffee prices. To address these challenges, Vietnam’s coffee policy has shifted toward two main objectives:
    • Maintaining its position as the world’s second-largest coffee producer and exporter.
    • Doubling the added value of coffee production by improving productivity, quality, and value-added processing.
  6. Investment in Processing and Sustainability: To increase export turnover and added value, domestic and international coffee companies are investing more in processing roasted and ground coffee, soluble coffee, and other value-added products. Sustainable coffee production is also a priority to meet the demands of both domestic and international consumers.
  7. Global Coffee Exporter: Currently, Vietnam is the second-largest coffee exporter in the world, following Brazil. The country’s coffee export volume, primarily Robusta coffee, accounts for a significant portion of the global market share, approximately 14%.

In summary, the development of the coffee industry in Vietnam has evolved over the years, with a shift towards Robusta coffee production in the Central Highlands, government support for the industry, and a focus on increasing value through processing and sustainability. Despite challenges, Vietnam continues to be a major player in the global coffee market.

Map: coffee production region in Vietnam 2014
Map: coffee production region in Vietnam 2014

Vietnamese coffee culture

Vietnam boasts a vibrant and unique coffee culture that has captivated both locals and travelers alike. Renowned for its strong, flavorful brews and distinctive preparation methods, here’s a glimpse into the captivating coffee culture in Vietnam:

  1. Traditional Coffeehouses: In Vietnam, traditional coffeehouses, often referred to as “ca phe,” are common fixtures on bustling street corners. These venues are known for their no-frills atmosphere, where patrons sit and served with filtered coffee, sipping their cups while watching the world go by.
  2. Diverse Coffee Styles: Vietnamese coffee offers a diverse range of styles to suit various preferences. The most iconic is “Ca Phe Sua Da” – a sweet and strong iced coffee made with condensed milk. Alternatively, you can enjoy “Ca Phe Den” (black coffee) or “Ca Phe Sua Chua” (yogurt coffee).
  3. Unique Brewing Techniques: Traditional Vietnamese coffee is brewed using a “phin” filter which allows for a rich and concentrated coffee flavor.
  4. Coffee and Conversation: Coffeehouses in Vietnam are not just places to drink coffee; they are hubs for social interaction. Locals gather to chat, play games, and discuss daily life, making coffeehouses integral to the fabric of Vietnamese society.
  5. Street Coffee Vendors: Street vendors selling coffee from mobile carts are a common sight in Vietnamese cities. They offer quick and affordable coffee options for people on the go, often served in plastic bags with a straw.
  6. Egg Coffee: Hanoi is famous for its unique egg coffee, “Ca Phe Trung.” This creamy concoction features a whipped egg yolk topping that lends a sweet and velvety texture to the coffee.
  7. Coffee Plantations: Vietnam is one of the world’s top coffee producers, with lush coffee plantations found in the Central Highlands. Travelers can visit these regions to witness coffee cultivation and processing firsthand.
  8. Coffee Tourism: Coffee tours are increasingly popular in Vietnam, offering visitors the chance to explore coffee farms, learn about harvesting and roasting processes, and even participate in coffee tastings.
  9. Cultural Significance: Coffee holds cultural significance in Vietnam, serving as a symbol of hospitality and togetherness. Offering a cup of coffee to guests is a traditional gesture of warmth and welcome.
  10. Innovation: Vietnam’s coffee culture is also evolving with modern coffee shops embracing contemporary designs, offering innovative coffee creations, and catering to a younger, trend-conscious crowd. Starbucks, Highlands, The coffeehouse are among the coffee chain stores here.

In essence, Vietnam’s coffee culture is a delightful blend of tradition and innovation, where the aromatic brews and convivial atmosphere create a unique and unforgettable coffee experience for all who partake.

Read more: Savor the Flavor of Summer with Homemade Vietnamese Iced Coffee

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