Each cup of coffee we enjoy always has its own story behind. The beauty of coffee is that it is capable of binding everything together, including people, in a very clear and powerful way.

Vietnam is not lacking… delicious coffee!

It is right to say that almost 90% of Vietnam population drink… coffee. Most of them enjoy filter coffee whose taste is very strong. There is nothing to say if Vietnam were not the second largest coffee exporter in the world (after Brazil), but the number of Vietnamese people who know how to enjoy coffee or distinguish what coffee is pure is not much. While Brazil is famous for supplying one third of global coffee production and Arabica coffee with a moderately strong and sour taste is extremely popular, Vietnamese coffee is not widely appreciated. It is thought that our country can only export Robusta to the world. But people forget that Arabica coffee in Vietnam – a kind of coffee which has richer flavors (sour, sweet, herbal or fruity) and is less bitter than Robusta because of lower caffeine concentration – is not bad. Da Lat,  Lam Dong is an eloquent demonstration for the land of Arabica coffee. Its best output throughout 150 years of experience is the pride of every Vietnamese coffee lover.

I always believe that Vietnam has good coffee. It’s not just the kind of coffee mixed with soy or any flavors to make up the smell and create the eye-catching black that thousands of people are enjoying everyday. “Pure coffee” or such concepts as “Organic coffee”, “Specialty coffee” (referred to as high quality Arabica coffee grown under the condition of special climate and good soil) is still something elusive for me until I have the opportunity to observe directly the coffee garden in Da Lat and talk to the peasants there. To be honest, a good cup of coffee depends 70% on the grower, 20% on the roaster and the  remaining 10% on the barista.

N., the owner of the coffee garden in Cau Dat, Lam Dong, said: “The problem here is not just planting a tree, waiting until the ripe fruit and harvesting, instead the peasants have to switch from using chemical to micro-biological fertilizer. Insecticide must be stopped for at least 3 months before fruit picking. Even when harvesting, instead of plucking branches, the peasants shoul pick fruit by fruit. Then comes the preliminary processing phase, instead of drying naturally on the yard, the floor must be invested drying system. Not only that, when planting coffee trees, the peasants have to cultivate fruit trees to create shade and increase biodiversity… It’s a marvel!”. How many people could understand and accept it? Any coffee tree, whether Arabica or Robusta, needs thorough care from the beginning of the farmers. Perhaps only when customers understand the hardship, they cease the bargains on the price of the coffee beans they purchase, the coffee cups they enjoy and know how to evaluate the true value of Specialty coffee. Once customers have been involved in the study of coffee and get some knowledge of Specialty coffee, the ability for them to get back to the ordinary coffee which is usually sold in the market is extremely small. But in return, their taste would be better. Understanding something deeper would certainly be better.

The charm of pure coffee

The question “What are the differences between pure coffee and ordinary coffee?” is not too hard to answer. Pure coffee has the color of cockroach, it is not black as we think. Of course, the taste is not strong nor bitter and the savour will be much more fragrant (in a way of natural aroma). People who are not used to pure coffee may belittle that it is bad, bland, sour… The cognition and habit inculcated in the mind of Vietnamese is that good coffee should be strong, bitter, and consistent. Obviously it is not easy for people to change something that has become a “lifestyle”, but it does not mean that we are not in need of changing for integration. In big cities like Hanoi, Saigon, Da Lat… nowadays, many people bravely bring pure coffee into daily life. It was not accepted at first, but gradually when people understood more about the story of coffee workers, got used to something new, though hard to drink but “pure”, they opened their hearts to welcome the innovation. Pure coffee is often labeled with Italian brewed coffee such as espresso, cappuccino, latte, etc. It is therefore easy to be misunderstood as a drink only for… drink. It is right, but not enough!

Vietnamese coffee is also delicious. Many visitors when coming to Vietnam, visiting the city of coffee – Da Lat or the tourist city – Hoi An now can easily find a good cup of coffee in its true sense – the cup of coffee that in addition to its original flavor, we can also find the smell of grass, sky and flowers! Nowadays, many people are passionate about coffee, especially the young generation. They spend time, effort and money to pursue the aspiration of Vietnamese coffee identity. Coffee in particular and cuisine in general is not afraid of having no place on the market as long as we are open-minded to welcome it. I believe that coffee carries on itself more than what we are understanding about it. You must travel a lot, explore and learn at different countries and regions to see the strange seductive attraction of coffee. It is not a coincidence that big coffee brands such as Starbucks… also choose Vietnamese Arabica coffee to serve. Not to mention the quality of the coffee beans and their freshness, this choice also shows respect for the labor of coffee growers. Behind every cup of coffee there is an endless journey, behind each of the traditional brewing tools there is a story of the history and culture of a people. Whether it is at home, or somewhere in the coffee shop, pure coffee with its characteristics is always a bridge to help us open up ourselves and have new friends who are as unique as coffee.