As one of the world’s leading coffee exporters, Vietnam is so much more than tuk-tuk’s, Halong Bay, or miles and miles of rice fields.
Vietnamese coffee blends of the Central Highlands are a deliciously complex, creamy, and fruity way to make coffee. There’s no better representative of this than our best overall and my personal favorite, the Trung Nguyen Premium Blend.
Let’s dig through the crates of all things Vietnamese coffee, starting right from the beginning.
Coffee cherries and coffee trees themselves were first introduced to Vietnam by French colonizers in 1857. The coffee plant flourished in the Central Highlands, where the rich basalt soil of the temperate and volcanic region gave these beans robust and distinct flavor profiles.
Coffee was quickly cultivated in plantations to develop Vietnamese coffee as a boost to the economy.
And boost the economy it did, until the Vietnam War in the 20th century. At the time, the largest growing area of Buôn Ma Thuột was not impacted, but the conflict affected the whole of Vietnam and halted coffee production.
After the war, coffee farming was restricted by the Vietnamese government, limiting private enterprises and independent Vietnamese coffee farmers. It wasn’t until 1986 that these restrictions were lifted.
Today, Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world. Ka-ching!
For iced coffee lovers, the cà phê sữa đá is the perfect way to beat the Vietnamese heat. It is served as a slow-drip coffee, oozing through a stainless steel filter (phin), and served with condensed milk on the bottom and a large glass of ice.
Our Top Vietnamese Coffee Brands
We scoured the Central Highlands to bring you the best of the best coffee beans, packed with all that authentic flavor. Here are our top picks:
- Medium Roast
- Hints of chocolate with sweet aromatics
- All-purpose brewing
- Dark Roast
- Dark chocolatey flavor with nutty hints
- Best for French Press
- Light-medium Roast
- Smoky scotch, grapefruit zest flavor
- Best for French Press or Phin Brewing
- Dark Roast
- Creamy dark chocolate and berries flavor
- All-purpose brewing
- Medium Roast
- Hints of chocolate and caramel
- Instant Coffee Brewing
Let’s start by looking at our best overall pick and the obvious choice, the Trung Nguyen Premium Blend: the flagship coffee bean for Vietnamese traditional coffees.
1. Trung Nguyen Premium Blend – Best Overall
The Trung Nguyen Premium Blend is by far the best Vietnamese coffee by a long shot. This blend of 60% Arabica with 40% Robusta beans is an energizing coffee variety that still has the sweetness and fruit flavor to keep your socks on.
Trung Nguyen’s blend has flavor notes of milk chocolate combined with an earthy, nutty flavor with a fruity aroma and finish. It’s a smooth-drinking, sweet coffee with a perfect balance of rich and light, exactly what you’re looking for in a medium roast.
This blend is also low in acidity while not losing its smooth taste or watering down your coffee, as you might expect from lesser beans.
The Trung Nguyen Premium retails as an inexpensive Vietnamese coffee brand with all the bold flavor and authentic taste of prosumer brands; with air-tight, tin packaging, Trung Nguyen has fresher for longer flavor in mind.
This is a brand that is internationally trusted and a tried and true coffee bean as the Premium Blend. Trung Nguyen has cultivated and roasted all their beans in-house for decades. From the harvest to packaging, it is a closely monitored, sacred process.
This is a great introductory coffee bean to welcome you to the world of Vietnamese brews and is sure to make you reach for a second cup.
- Perfectly balanced blend for a delicious coffee
- All-purpose brewing for a versatile coffee experience
- Low acidity but doesn’t lose the smooth flavor or water down your coffee
- Affordable for any budget, with the taste of expensive coffees
- Air-tight, tin packaging
- A handful of online reviewers complain of coffee not filtering through their brewer correctly
2. Saigon Phin Daklak Pre-Ground Coffee – Best Dark Roast
From the Lang Thang Group, the Saigon Phin Daklak is their most notable bean and represents everything we love about Vietnamese dark roasts. This is a cup of coffee with a jaw-dropping, knock your socks of caffeine kick.
With rich, creamy notes of dark chocolate and nuts, this strong coffee is for the coffee lover who wants it smooth just as much as they want to feel energized. The high caffeine content and heavy-body paired together will do just that.
This bean was also grown by Lang Thang specifically for phê sữa đá, the signature, tasty coffee favorite of Vietnam. This blend of Robusta, Arabica, and Peaberry beans with tons of strength and flavor cut with shelf-stable sweetened condensed milk gives you flavor like a Hanoian.
- Makes for a perfect cà phê sữa đá, for authentic Vietnamese flavor
- High caffeine content gets you up and moving
- Resealable packaging for a fresh-brewed coffee taste and a longer shelf-life
- Ground a little too fine for phin brewing
- Artificial flavors to achieve the bitter taste
3. Nguyen Coffee True Grit Peaberry Robusta – Best Single-Origin
Nguyen Coffee Supply’s True Grit Peaberry is grown by 4th generation Vietnamese coffee farmers under the Ton family in the Central Highlands.
Nguyen Coffee Supply is the first direct-trade, single-origin coffee bean blend of Vietnamese coffee to import to the U.S, where they roast and ship their beans in Brooklyn.
Nguyen Coffee Supply is all about organic, clean coffee with no added artificial flavors. The True Grit Peaberry is no exception, as it is a sustainably sourced Moxy and Loyalty Arabica bean: 100% Arabica, baby. It’s also available in ground or whole bean varieties.
With a mouthwatering flavor profile, you get a well-rounded, light-medium roast with a smoky scotch flavor, grapefruit notes, and bitter melon. What it’s lacking in the traditional, complex flavors of Vietnamese dark brew, it makes up for in refreshing taste.
- Clean quality coffee with no additives or artificial flavors
- Nguyen Coffee Supply is on its 4th generation of single-origin farmers
- Available in whole or ground beans
- Missing the signature, dark complexity of Vietnamese coffee
4. ChestBrew Moon Bear Whole Bean Coffee – Best Whole Bean
The ChestBrew Moon Bear is the perfect bean for long stays in the pantry and is meant to last over time with its whole bean, resealable 20 oz. packaging.
The Moon Bear gives you a delicious taste with natural flavors and a smooth finish. With notes of dark chocolate, hints of wild berries, and a mild acidity level, this dark roast is a surprisingly sweet, aromatic coffee. But don’t let the sweet, chocolatey taste fool you; it’s still very much a dark roast with a high caffeine level.
This is also a versatile, all-purpose brew and will make a balanced blend with intense flavors in any brew style, with all types of coffee preparation. Cold brewing or Saigon espresso, this is a bean made for those with eclectic palates.
- Beans are grown to be versatile for a variety of brewing methods, cold brewing to a shot of espresso
- Whole bean, resealable 20 oz. packaging to keep your coffee’s flavor intact
- Noticeably sweet, smooth flavor, not something you expect from a dark roast
- Too pricey for first-time explorers of Vietnamese coffee culture
5. VinaCafe Instant Coffee Mix (Ca Phe Hoa Tan) – Best Instant Coffee
Now I know, this is an instant coffee and is sure to ruffle the feathers of all the coffee connoisseurs out there. That said, in all my research, the Vietnamese VinaCafe Instant Coffee Mix kept popping up, and I had to try it. For instant coffee, the VinaCafe is unlike any other.
If you want an authentic taste of the Vietnamese coffee culture, do as the locals do; Vietnamese people are some of the world’s highest per capita instant coffee drinkers.
Convenience is the name of the game, and with this award-winning (yes you heard that right) instant coffee you can have a smooth taste without the hassle of long brew times. Simply add water to your grounded coffee powder and the included cream and sugar to taste.
This is also perfect for coffee drinkers on the go who want a taste of Vietnam in their carry-on. The flavor notes of chocolate and caramel are full-bodied and creamy and are a stronger step-up from other contemporary instant coffees.
- Convenience; a Vietnamese cup of coffee without the hassle
- A travel-friendly instant coffee options that’s ready when you are
- Comes with top quality creamer and sugar for a balanced cup of coffee
- Instant coffee is an acquired taste and not for everyone, even if that coffee is Vietnamese
If you’re looking for the genuine flavor of Vietnam, try a medium to dark roast. It’s in these roasts that the personality of the Vietnamese Arabica and Robusta varieties shine through.
Today, Robusta coffee beans make up 90% of the country’s international coffee exports, but Arabica beans remain cherished and savored as a delicacy by the Vietnamese. These are the most common Arabica varieties you’ll find in the country:
Catimor — An aromatic bean with intensely rich, dark flavor, known for being a stable yield and its resistance to leaf rust among Vietnamese coffee makers
Moka (Bourbon) — Brought by the French from the colonial island of Bourbon in the Indian Ocean, this bean has a strong taste of rich chocolate with woody, earthy aromatics. A favorite at the time of French Indochina.
Typica — The oldest variety of coffee in the world; known as a fruity brew.
All our top picks are comprised of Arabica blends of these varieties. The best Vietnamese bean for you will depend on how authentically Vietnamese you want your coffee to taste and what notes excite you the most.
Ground vs. Whole vs. Instant
Whole Beans — Here you have the most manual effort and time, but the best, deep flavors and a more tailored experience. You can control how you grind and for which brew type or how coarse your coffee is, thereby controlling its bitter aftertaste and sweetness level.
Ground Beans — What you get in the convenience of not having to grind your beans is traded for losing more options in your brewing and taste. Also, your coffee’s shelf life is much shorter.
Instant Coffee — Tons of coffee drinkers love instant coffee because it’s just that: instant. But, you’re by no means getting a premium bean, with little to no versatility in brew type.
Vietnam is responsible for some of the best coffee beans in the world, with the Trung Nguyen Premium bean encapsulating exactly what the Vietnamese coffee experience is about.
Trung Nguyen is an authentic Vietnamese coffee. It’s a perfectly balanced blend of rich, chocolaty, earthy flavor with a fruity, sweet finish.
So there you have it, a landslide victory. Happy brewing, and enjoy the best Vietnam has to offer.