Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Vietnam

Image for Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Vietnam

Welcome expatriates to the rich tapestry of coffee culture in Vietnam, where coffee is more than just a drink - it's a way of life. In this guide, we'll provide insights and tips for navigating the local coffee scene, which will help you connect with the people and the culture. Embrace the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and immerse yourself in Vietnam's unique coffee traditions.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Vietnam is one of the top coffee producers in the world, and locally grown coffee beans are considered some of the best. Robusta coffee, which comprises 95% of Vietnam's coffee production, is renowned for its bold flavor and high caffeine content. Nevertheless, arabica beans, which have a milder taste, are also grown in specific regions of Vietnam.

Vietnam's coffee plantations are located primarily in the north and central regions, such as Dalat, Mu Cang Chai, and Moc Chau. Dalat, in particular, is well-known as the "coffee capital" of Vietnam. As an expat, you should explore these regions to learn more about coffee cultivation, harvesting, and processing methods, and even try your hand at picking the beans.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Vietnam has a unique coffee tradition that goes beyond a simple cup of black coffee. Some popular coffee drinks that are well-loved by the locals and expats include:

  • Cà phê sữa đá (iced milk coffee): A popular Vietnamese drink, made with condensed milk and drip coffee, served over ice.
  • Cà phê trứng (egg coffee): A unique Vietnamese contribution to coffee culture, made by beating egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk until they are frothy and then brewing them with coffee.
  • Cà phê bội (filter coffee): This is the type of coffee that you will find frequently in Vietnam, made from filtering grounded coffee in a special device known as a phin (albeit a Vietnamese-style phin).
  • Cà phê da (black coffee): A simple but strong coffee, and, when ordered as cà phê da nhãn (black coffee with ice), a refreshing drink during hot weather.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

To understand the culture of coffee in Vietnam, it's crucial to learn and respect the customs and traditions associated with it. Coffee is more than a simple beverage, it's a social ritual that is deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture. Here are some coffee customs that expats should learn:

  • Kickback & Relax: Coffee shops are the perfect places for meeting and catching up. The coffee shops are designed to provide an immersive environment with comfortable furniture, soft lighting, and gentle music.
  • Pause & Chat: Vietnamese culture often places more importance on social interactions than the quantity of work done. Offer to pause while enjoying your coffee and talking to someone you meet.
  • Understand the Etiquette: Coffee is generally served hot, and it's proper etiquette to wait for the guests to arrive before starting the coffee session.


Embrace the coffee culture of Vietnam and you'll find unprecedented insights into the local community and its customs, social values, and daily routines. By participating in the coffee culture, you'll discover a distinct side of Vietnam, which is both colorful and exciting.

Expat-friendly Coffee Shops, Cafes, and Cultural Experiences

As an expat, you might want to start by exploring local coffee shops and cafes that are tailored to suit your taste. Here are some recommendations that are well-loved by expats:

  • Highlands Coffee: One of Vietnet's most prominent coffee chains, they offer a variety of coffee drinks in a cozy and relaxed ambiance that suits different moods.
  • Indochine Coffee: Although located outside of Vietnam, Indochine offers a traditional Vietnamese coffee experience by stocking both arabica and robusta coffee varieties.
  • The Workshop: The workshop is clustered in the Hanoi-based neighborhood, crammed with lush green spaces, and known for serving Vietnamese drip coffee.

Experience the Coffee Culture of Vietnam

Immerse yourself in the rich coffee culture of Vietnam, whether you're an experienced coffee drinker or a coffee novice. Embrace the local customs, hot or cold brews, and the leisurely pace of coffee drinking. By doing so, you'll discover a distinct side of Vietnam, allowing you to live consciously amongst a vibrant community.