Vietnam's Coffee Culture
A country that loves it's coffee
There’s some disagreement about when coffee was first introduced to Vietnam, but it’s generally thought that it was brought over by French missionaries in the 1850s. The story goes that a Catholic priest planted arabica trees in the north of Vietnam. Despite reasonable results, the missionaries realised that the climate in central Vietnam was far more suitable, and coffee production gradually began to move south towards the highlands.
In 1885, France defeated China in the Sino-French war and officially colonised Vietnam in 1887, with the formation of French Indochina. After that, coffee production really began to boom. In 1908, two new varieties of coffee were introduced: liberica and robusta, the latter of which is by far the most popular bean in Vietnam today, constituting 97 percent of production.
The French had all the coffee their hearts desired, but the lack of dairy in Vietnam left them missing their beloved cafe au lait. Fresh milk was nigh on impossible to import and would have spoiled in the heat. They began to import condensed milk as a substitute and Vietnam’s sweet, smooth ca phe sua da was born.
In the 1980s, a set of liberal economic reforms known as ‘Doi Moi’ were announced. Private farming was once again permitted and the government was determined to see Vietnam become a major coffee exporter.
That goal was certainly realised; by the mid 1990s, Vietnam was the world’s second largest coffee producer and the industry was growing at a rate of 20-30 percent per year. Today, it’s estimated that Vietnam produces 20 percent of the world’s coffee and 40 percent of all robusta.
The agriculture of coffee alone is responsible for around 3 million jobs in Vietnam – and that’s before even beginning to count the number of people employed in coffee shops up and down the country.