Why Does Vietnamese Coffee Taste Like Chocolate? Is It Natural?


Why does Vietnamese coffee taste like chocolate header image

Wondering why Vietnamese coffee sometimes tastes a little like chocolate? Does it have something to do with the beans or brewing method? Here’s what you want to know.

Vietnamese coffee can sometimes taste like chocolate because cacao is added during the roasting process. This started out of necessity because the majority of Vietnamese coffee beans are of the Robusta variety which needs some help to create a well-rounded drink.

For a more in depth explanation, keep reading.


Why does Vietnamese coffee taste like chocolate?

To start off; not ALL Vietnamese coffee tastes like chocolate. There are a ton of coffees out there that have no or no recognizable chocolate taste. Now, there are certainly Vietnamese coffees that have pretty strong chocolate notes.

For many people that drink Vietnamese coffee for the first time, it’s a surprising new taste. But where does that taste come from? Do they add chocolate to the coffee or do the beans have such a strong chocolate taste? Well, it’s neither.

Well, what you taste is not quite chocolate but cacao. While there is certainly cacao in chocolate, they don’t put chocolate in the coffee. They (usually) don’t put cacao straight into the bag of coffee either.

Cacao is ground very finely and it would easily wash through the filter and end up in your cup. Vietnamese coffee filters are made to be used with medium-coarse to coarse grinds and cacao powder is much finer than that.

The secret is in the roast. The reason for the roasting method is the type of beans used in Vietnamese coffee. Let’s explore a little more.


Robusta beans

To understand why Vietnamese coffee tastes like chocolate, we have to start with the beans. The vast majority of coffee beans that grow in Vietnam are Robusta beans. This type of coffee bean isn’t known for creating the best tasting drink out of the box.

Robusta beans are also responsible for the strong taste and high caffeine content in Vietnamese Coffee. Read more about that in this post.

Robusta beans have some tastes people like but there are also some tastes in there that make most people dislike like rubber and bitterness. While there are some chocolate notes in Robusta, it’s not enough to really be noticeable to the level it is in some Vietnamese Coffees.

In most other countries, the coffee mainly consists of Arabica beans which don’t have many of those disliked notes.

This means that you have to either mix Robusta beans with Arabica to balance the taste or you add things to the roasting process to improve the taste of the Robusta.

Since most beans in Vietnam are Robusta, they are the cheapest. That means that adding things to the roasting process with Robusta is cheaper than blending with other types of beans. So while blending is very effective, it will cost a bit more.

For that reason, you’ll often find chocolate notes in cheaper coffees. Although, since many people like it, it’s also found in higher quality coffees.


Roasting method

To create a coffee that is actually nice to drink, roasters use certain methods and additives in the process to balance out the less favorable tastes of Robusta. The additives are used to create a smoother, better-rounded tasting coffee.

The lower the quality of the coffee beans, the stronger the ‘bad’ tastes tend to be so the more additives you need to balance everything out. Cacao is one of those things roasters love to add because it does a great job in rounding out and deepening the taste. So, if your coffee really tastes like chocolate or has cacao notes, it’s likely lower quality coffee which means more additives have to be added to create an acceptable drink.

On the other hand, many people actually like that taste. This causes producers to actually add extra beyond what is necessary.

Another thing that’s commonly added is clarified butter. This also goes a long way in creating a smoother drink and better rounded taste.


Conclusion

Vietnamese coffee can sometimes taste like chocolate because the less than optimal taste of Robusta beans means that extra things are added during the coffee roasting process to round out the taste. Cacao is one of those things that are commonly added which is where the chocolate taste and smell comes from.


Is it natural?

So, is that chocolate taste natural? Well, it depends on what you mean by natural. It’s not something that comes from the beans when you pick them from the tree. So in that regard, the cacao taste isn’t natural. It’s an addition in the process between picking the coffee and you having a liquid in your cup.

However, cacao is a natural product just like coffee is. It even grows in Vietnam not too far away from where the coffee is grown. That means it’s not something really strange to add. It’s a natural product you add to another natural product.

In the end it comes down to if you actually want that taste in your coffee.

For coffee aficionados that really want to taste every little nuance of the taste of the beans, that’s a bad thing. However, most people just want to drink something they think tastes good and has caffeine.

If you like it, drink it.


Not coffee

Some ‘coffee’ roasters have solved all those problems and they completely forego Robusta beans. For Arabica? No; Soy and corn.

Why pay more for beans you have to make taste good if you can start with something that doesn’t really taste like much and add flavorings? This makes for a very cheap ‘coffee’ since corn and soy is much cheaper than cheap coffee.

Cacao is a common taste to add to this concoction, probably in a process that is similar to coffee roasting. Basically you’re just drinking flavored soy. If you get a coffee like this in Vietnam, you probably won’t notice the difference as long as you order it with condensed milk. However, if you order it black, you’ll notice a difference. If you like it, there isn’t really a problem.

However, this ‘coffee’ isn’t made by the big brands. It’s made in small shops where quality control and use of food grade additives isn’t always a concern.

Just drinking soy beans with some flavorings isn’t a big deal. However, because it’s made in shops that have very little oversight, you don’t always know what you’re getting. That could definitely have an impact on your health.

If you buy from a good coffee shop or a supermarket, the chance you get this type of drink is very small. Click here to find the most famous coffee brands in Vietnam.

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.

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