Hi I’m Andy and I’m a coffeeholic.
Joking aside, it’s actually not that far from the truth. I cant even remember when I began drinking that damn addictive and delicious thing! But I do remember I used to have a lot of sugar in my coffee. It all changed after I used this crappy coffee machine at my university. It poured way too much sugar in my coffee, consequently I stopped adding sugar. And I haven’t put it back to this day.
During my travels I have encountered different types of coffee. Ranging from mediocre to excellent. But lucky for me, the best coffee is grown in my two favorite countries: Vietnam and Colombia. But they are two different sides of the coffee coin. One is a raging caffeine bull that wakes me up in the morning with a strong kick in the ass. The other is a sophisticated mild old lady that is the perfect companion when I need to relax or having guests over.
So what do I mean by that? Well the two countries are growing different coffee. Vietnam is growing a bean called Robusta and Colombia is growing Arabica. They have many similarities but also differences. This all became clear to me after I visited coffee farmers to see first hand how coffee is produced. These visits taught me a lot about coffee.
So what should a coffee lover with a lot of knowledge about them beans do? He should obviously write a post about Vietnamese vs Colombian coffee! And that’s what the rest of this post is about. As a bonus I add in some tips how I brew my coffee. Keep reading and I’ll explain the secrets of Vietnamese vs Colombian coffee!
Let’s start with Vietnam. Actually, not many know that Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer with an annual output of 26 million bags (One bag contains 60 kilogrammes or 132.276 pounds of coffee). That’s a lot of coffee. As comparison, number one producer is Brazil with 56 million bags and number three is Colombia with 14.5 million bags. These three countries produce most of the coffee we drink today.
Vietnam has grown coffee since the late 19th century when it was introduced by the French colonists . Today most of the coffee is grown in the Central Highlands which includes provinces such as DakLak, Gia Lai and Kontum. These provinces are encircled in the image below.
Vietnam primarily grows a coffee type called Robusta which is known for their high levels of caffeine (2.7% vs Arabica’s 1.5%), lower sugar, less prone to diseases and higher crop yield compared to Arabica. Thus the bean is easier and less expensive to grow. The taste of Robusta is earthy, slight bitter, and full bodied.
So how does the Vietnamese drink their coffee? Using a slow dripping phin filter and mixed with sweetened condensed milk as pictured below. If you don’t specifically ask for black coffee, you’ll usually end up with sweetened condensed milk in it. Most Vietnamese either put milk or sugar in their coffee. Only expats like myself drink black coffee.
Due to the strong taste and bitterness, some people may get turned off by Vietnamese coffee. Especially if you grew up in the western world where most coffee is Arabica. But I do believe it’s worthwhile giving Vietnamese coffee a chance. I’ll explain why below.
Vietnamese coffee is slightly more bitter and stronger than their Arabica cousin. However, these traits are sometimes favorably. For example, this is exactly how I like my morning coffee. Vietnamese coffee wakes me up and gives me energy to get shit done in the morning!
In addition, from a health point of view, Robusta has high levels of antioxidant which we all know is fighting our nasty free radicals. And that’s a great thing.
When selecting your Vietnamese coffee, it’s important to go for a high quality brand so you not end up with a taste like burnt rubber. Believe me, I had coffee like that. My preferred Vietnamese brand is Trung Nguyen and nowadays it’s pretty much the only coffee I drink in the mornings. Above are some photos from when I ground and brewed Trung Nguyen coffee in my Saigon kitchen.
Trung Nguyen is less bitter than other brands but still have the rich fullness and the high levels of caffeine I require in the mornings.
If you want to try my Trung Nguyen coffee you can buy it here!
So let’s move on in the battle Vietnamese vs Colombian Coffee with my favorite country in South America: Colombia. Colombia is the third largest coffee producer with an annual output of 14.5 million bags. But it’s the worlds largest producer of Arabica beans.
Coffee arrived in Colombia in the early 1800s but didn’t become a large export commodity until the later part of the 19th century. Today most coffee is produced in the coffee growing axis (Eje Cafetero in spanish), a region I visited in January 2017. Eje Cafetero is encircled in the image below.
Colombia primarily grows the Arabica bean. Arabica was the first domesticated coffee type and has less caffeine compared to it’s Robusta cousin (1.5% vs Robusta’s 2.7%), more lipids (fat), more sugar, and has to grow at higher altitudes. It’s also more prone to diseases. This makes it more difficult and expensive to grow. The taste is mild and well balanced. In addition, you are able to find more nuances in Arabica coffee for example fruity, hazelnut etc.
So how do the Colombians drink their coffee? They primarily drink something called tinto which basically is black coffee. And let me tell you it’s not great. Sadly, the best quality beans are exported and the ones that falls short remains in the country. Consequently, if you come to Colombia to sample some good coffee you may end up disappointed. The best Colombian coffee may actually be found at your local Starbucks down the street.
As I explained above, Colombian coffee is not my preferred drink in the mornings since I require something stronger. But I have to say it taste somewhat better than Vietnamese coffee, and is my preferred drink after a delicious lunch. I don’t like to ruin my after lunch experience with strong coffee.
When I lived in Colombia, I always bought a coffee brand called Oma. It’s an excellent bean and I even brought some with me so I can remember my good times in Colombia. Above are some photos from when I ground and brewed Oma coffee in my Bogota kitchen.
If you want to try my Oma coffee you can buy it here!
Bonus: How I Brew my Coffee!
In the last part of Vietnamese vs Colombian Coffee I want to share some of my secrets how to brew excellent coffee. Selecting the right beans is just one part of the story. You need the right equipment for the job too!
Everyone should own a good coffee grinder. After you start grinding your coffee beans, you’ll never go back buying ground coffee again. It’s just taste so much better. Plus the smell from the ground beans fills my kitchen and it just put me in a good mood.
I own a small and high quality coffee grinder that can easily fit in my suitcase. It’s excellent when making coffee for one or two people.
If you want to try my coffee grinder you can buy it here!
However, my grinder may not be suitable for larger families since it’s only grinding coffee for two people at a time. Also, if it’s going to be stationary in your kitchen, size is not really a requirement. When I lived in my condo I owned this electric grinder which is also great.
I have turned into a bit of a coffee snob. Making coffee has almost become an art form for me, and regular filtered coffee is not good enough anymore. This all happened after I bought my Aeropress. An Aeropress is similar to a Frenchpress but makes better tasting coffee. The taste is rich and smooth. It’s especially beneficial for Vietnamese Robusta since it removes some of the bitterness.
The main parts consists of a chamber and plunger. After the ground beans have immersed themselves in water inside the chamber, you lightly press the plunger into the chamber. When you’ll learn the technique it only takes one minute to make the coffee. And the cleaning is super easy.
Due to it’s small compact size it’s ideal for bringing with you when traveling.
If you want to try my Aeropress you can buy it here!
One last word of warning. After using an Aeropress, it will be difficult to go back and drink regular filtered coffee!
Well this was suppose to be a battle of Vietnamese vs Colombian Coffee, but I hope I don’t disappoint too much when I say I prefer both. I drink Vietnamese coffee in the morning to get ready for the day. When I need to chill after a delicious meal or after a tough deadline, I drink my Colombian coffee.
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