What is Vietnamese Egg Coffee!?
I spent a bit of time in Vietnam while living in northern Thailand and traveling throughout Southeast Asia. A friend and I ventured out for a day of eating and stumbled upon a street stall serving up Vietnamese egg coffee. I no idea what we were in for, the Vietnamese egg coffee was luscious, velvety and full of flavor. The origins of this delicious brew hail from Hanoi, but are widely served in the streets of Ho Chi Min and I had one every day thereafter.
Vietnamese egg coffee is rumored to have originated in 1946 in northern Vietnam at the Metropole hotel. A young bartender/barista by the name Giang concocted the idea during a period where milk was scarce. He combined sweet and condensed milk with egg yolks and whipped them into a froth that he spooned on top. The combination of egg yolk and sugar is well documented and used throughout many cooking and pastry recipes. The proteins in the egg combined with sugar to create a delicate unconscious texture.
Gaing knew this as he was developing his now-famous Vietnamese egg coffee. His coffee was the talk of the hotel and quickly spread, around Hanoi, he quickly left the hotel to start his own cafe. Today his daughter and three sons own three locations, continuing the legacy of their father.
The History of Vietnamese Coffee
Coffee production has been a major export of Vietnam since the early 20th century. The French introduced the cultivation of coffee in the mid-1800s and taught the Vietnamese advanced cultivation techniques. The fruit was hard to grow when first introduced because of the varied weather and humidity in the lowlands of Vietnam. In the 1920s the french opened up colonization zones in the higher altitudes of Dak Lak Province. This proved to be the recipe for growth and mass production where smaller-scale operations transitioned to plantation-style growth.
The Toll of War
The Vietnam War shook the coffee industry to the core of the high plateaus. While the conflict was, often not nearby, it was a crossroads between the north and south and was largely disrupted. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the industry was collectivized, and private operations were limited by the government. Over a decade later economic reforms were adopted and privately owned cultivation was free to bloom.
Almost 97% of coffee production in Vietnam is Robusta beans, Vietnam is the second-largest producer of Java, just falling behind Brazil. The boom and bust cycles within the coffee industry are widely displaced upon the farmers. Global coffee prices can fluctuate severely depending on many factors while importing countries seem to regularly pay the same prices. This burden falls solely upon the cultivators, in 2001 due to late rains, many households had to reduce their daily meals and rely on the charity of the community.
Where is Coffee Grown?
The expansion of coffee culture in the highlands is mostly centralized in Dak Lak Province. An increase in the displacement of some ethnic minorities, the continued increase, and the transformation of land has led to considerable deforestation and loss of biodiversity. The economic lure of prosperity has put a major strain on the lands in this region. Soils and underground water resources are being over-utilized, with the practice of mono-cropping, leading to soil depletion and pest infestation.
It’s not altogether bad news for the region as in 2010 they began taking steps towards more sustainable growing practices. A number of coffee companies cooperate with government, organizations, and farmers as part of a collaborative effort replacing older coffee trees and funding services for smaller operations.
The Fair Trade Debate
Fair Trade certification conversations have been a heated debate in Vietnam coffee growing regions as of recent. While the certification is widely acknowledged by consumers as a sustainable practice it comes with a necessary conversation. Fairtrade organizations support producers, environmental sustainability and better working environments for coffee cultivation, offing better trading conditions. By setting limits on the amount of coffee traded between countries, there is no surplus in the commodity and a consequent drop in global prices.
Critics of fair trade practices argue that it’s purely a way to market the idea of ethical consumerism. There are concerns as most of the profits do not move to smaller operations, although much of the labor has been provided by the least fortunate. A study performed by MIT concluded that an oversupply of the certification, as only a fraction of coffee classified as Fair Trade was actually sold on Fair Trade markets, just enough to recoup the costs of certification.
Coffee Culture in Vietnam
Through their desire to develop loyalty to Vietnamese grown coffee, local coffee producers and cafés have looked to change the conversation. Establishing new origin stories and allowing people to trace beans back to its original locations with the use of packaging. The so-called “third wave” of coffee has spread across the globe and is prevalent in Vietnam. The emphasis on quality sourcing of green beans, advanced roasting techniques with the lighter profiles and, innovative brewing methods all play key factors in today’s coffee culture.
Thanks to the evolution of direct trade with local coffee shops, barista’s and, small-batch roasters, a story is passed along to the origins and methods used in your cup of coffee. For me, it’s the basis of an amazing experience that blends education, dedication to craft and, hospitality in every cup.
Let me know how you like the Vietnamese egg coffee in the comments below. Also, check out our recent post on The history of Cuban Coffee and its checkered past.
Here are a few local coffee shops we went to our food and coffee tour in Ho Chi Min.
The Workshop has an abundance of natural light pouring into this contemporary loft space. It’s beautifully designed and the coffee experience is top-notch.
How Do I Make Vietnamese Egg Coffee At Home?
I like to use a porcelain pour-over coffee cone and it works quite well for making Vietnamese egg coffee. Alternatively, you can use, espresso or a dark brewed coffee.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
12 Oz of coffee
2 tsp sweet and condensed milk
2 egg yolks
- Brew your coffee and put into 2 cups
- Combine egg yolks and sweet and condensed milk and whip until it doubles in size and the color changes to a lighter yellow hue.
- I like to add a splash of milk in my coffee and spoon over the luscious whip on top. Its really good as an Ice coffee on warm days.