One of the things most people remember after they visit Vietnam is the coffee. Coffee has a big place in Vietnamese culture and the taste is quite different than most people are used to. That makes coffee one of the most common things to take home from a trip to Vietnam. But which brand should you get? Here are your options
The five most well-known coffee brands in Vietnam are;
- Trung Nguyen
- Me Trang
- King Coffee
All of these brands have a large lineup of blends. You can’t really go wrong with anything from these brands but the more expensive blends tend to be better to drink black. The cheaper ones are more suitable for adding condensed milk.
For a more in depth look at all the different brands and what you can expect, keep reading.
1. Trung Nguyen
Far and away the most well-known coffee brand inside Vietnam and one of the brands that even has some (small) recognition outside the country.
Established by Dang Le Nguyen Vu in 1996 in Buon Ma Thuot, Trung Nguyen has grown into the biggest coffee conglomerate of the country. They don’t only produce and distribute many different types and blends of coffee but also run more than a thousand coffee shops around Vietnam, some of which are very high end.
The brand aims at the higher end of the market. With their coffee shops but also the bags in the shop. They have a very wide range of products some of which are very affordable all the way up to the renowned weasel coffee which can cost several thousand dollars per kilo although you won’t find the latter in the supermarket.
The bags with letters on them to designate the blend (N, S, I) are best if you’re going to mix it with condensed milk. They’re (in my opinion) not the best to drink black.
The gourmet and premium blends come in aluminum cans and are good ‘daily’ coffees.
The bags with numbers (1 to 5 and 8) range from “OK” to “Awesome”. Creative 8 is a coffee I can fully recommend.
If you’re looking for a nice gift or souvenir, Trung Nguyen is the brand to go for. Especially the Creative 8 and Weasel coffee comes in a nice box which doesn’t look out of place on a shelf.
2. Me Trang
Not as famous and glamorous as Trung Nguyen but still a big player in the Vietnamese coffee market.
If you’re looking for a clean, honest coffee, Me Trang is the way to go. Like Trung Nguyen, their line-up is pretty big and there are a ton of different blends.
Their prices are a bit lower than the number one but in my opinion the quality of the coffee you get for the same price is higher. As with the brand above, the higher the number the higher the quality and the higher the price.
For me this is the go to brand for everyday coffee I make at home. If you care about value and taste, Me Trang is a good option. However, the packaging might not make it feel as ‘special’.
Highlands coffee is one of the more visible coffee chains in Vietnam, with a presence in every major city in the country.
When the company was established in 1998 it was the first time a private company was established and owned by a Vietnamese American.
While it’s currently mainly a coffee shop chain, they have their own blends (Heritage Blend, Traditional Blend, Gourmet Blend, Moka Blend, Culi Supreme) that are available in supermarkets and at their coffee shops. All of those are good.
If you end up going to one of their coffee shops, you can also buy a bag of coffee there. No need to find a supermarket. Their coffee is packed in relatively simple but nice looking paper bags. While it doesn’t look bad, it might not make for the best gift.
4. King Coffee
Remember Trung Nguyen? Well, the coffee magnate had a wife. “Had” being the important word there. Long story short; the guy still has control over the Trung Nguyen brand. The ex-wife didn’t like that very much and used part of her money from the divorce to start a competing brand.
That brand is King Coffee. How is it? It’s pretty comparable to Trung Nguyen. Their line up isn’t as big yet which makes things a bit easier. You’re sure to get the traditional Vietnamese coffee taste in any blend you choose.
For gift purposes, I prefer the other brands above. That’s just because at least at the moment of writing, the packaging doesn’t look very appealing to me personally.
VinaCafe is the oldest company on this list. VinaCafe is actually quite a large company which is surprising since they mostly make instant coffee. Despite having fresh coffee available, instant coffee is still quite popular in Vietnam.
If you want to get this is up to you. If you like the Vietnamese iced coffee with milk, the instant coffees actually come decently close. While it’s not quite the same as when it’s made with real coffee and condensed milk but, it only takes 30 seconds to make and serves its purpose.
That said, all the other big brands also have their lines of instant coffee and they’re all pretty similar if you get the same style.
While it’s not a brand or direct recommendation, local coffee is always fun to try. With local I mean local to the direct surroundings to where you’re staying. Especially in the central highlands, many of the cities will have a few coffee brands available in the shops that aren’t found elsewhere in the country.
Vietnam is one of the biggest coffee exporters in the world. And the central highlands is the place where most of the coffee is grown in Vietnam. The climate and elevation in that area of the country is suitable for growing coffee.
While a lot of that coffee gets exported or scooped up by the big brands, there are still some smaller brands and upstarts that try to break into the market or just sell some coffee they think is good. The best and easiest way to get a hold of this coffee is in a supermarket or smaller shop in the cities in the highlands.
Especially cities like Dalat, Boun Ma Thuot, Pleiku and Kon Tum will have some coffee in their supermarkets that aren’t found in other places of the country.
Of course the taste and quality of those coffees can differ dramatically. And there are so many, it’s not really possible to make a list of all of them.
However, I personally always like to try the local stuff from places I visit. Sometimes you get something good, sometimes it’s pretty mediocre.
If you like trying different things, getting a smaller local brand is a good way to go. Especially if you’re in one of the places where to coffee grows. If it’s intended as a gift for someone else, it depends on the person you’re giving it to if this is a good gift.
For people that aren’t too interested in coffee, go for one of the established brands mentioned above. You’re more likely to get a taste that’s suitable for people who just ‘drink’ coffee. Still, many people still like getting something that’s very local even if they might prefer another taste. Especially if you’ve got a good story and pictures from the region, people will like it as a gift. And for yourself it’s good too.
For people who really like to experience different coffees, this is a great gift or souvenir.
Ground coffee is the easiest to get in a Vietnamese supermarket. There are usually very few choices of whole beans if any. There will also be a ton of instant coffee. Instant coffee is surprisingly gaining popularity in the country.
The increasing speed of life has people looking for ways to save time. People that have some time to spare will go to a coffee shop to get a good cup of coffee. People that are in a hurry and want to make some coffee at home are opting for instant coffee.
This means that in the supermarket a big part of the coffee isle will be occupied by instant coffee. However, that’s probably not what you’re looking for if you want the ‘real’ Vietnamese coffee taste. Ground coffee is the way to go.
Luckily, most shops also have a good selection of ground coffee.
Do you prefer whole beans instead of pre-ground coffee? There are a lot fewer options (in the supermarket) although there will still be a few.
In the supermarket the selection of whole beans is a whole lot more limited than ground coffee. You might be able to find one or two bags from the big brands named above.
You’ll also find some smaller brands. These can be of mixed quality. The price is usually an indication of the quality but it doesn’t tell you everything.
Although supermarkets are becoming more common and affordable for many people, the local market is still by far the place where most locals get their food. Most local markets will have at least one shop that sells coffee beans. Usually cheaper than in the supermarket although there will be some questions marks with buying beans at the market.
Usually there will be transparent containers with beans in them. The most information you’re going to get is the type of bean. It’ll say Robusta, Arabica, Moka, etc. on the container. If you want to know more than that, you better speak Vietnamese or have a translator.
Favorite Vietnamese Coffee Products
To make Vietnamese coffee you don’t need many things so makes sure the things you use are correct!
Vietnamese Coffee: Get your traditional coffee from Nguyen coffee supply. It’s freshly roasted in the USA so it’s much fresher than imported bags. The used beans are 100% Vietnamese. Here’s a combo pack (Amazon) to see what you like best.
Phin: The only way to brew Vietnamese coffee is with a Phin. This one (amazon link) works well is cheap and reusable.
Scale: Even though a Phin isn’t super picky with weights, to brew and adjust your cups to be consistently delicious, a simple scale helps tremendously. I’ve been using this one (Amazon link) for over a year and while it’s not the most aesthetic, it works well.
Condensed milk: To make the delicious ca phe sua da, you need condensed milk. This one (Amazon link) is organic and works perfectly.