Vietnam has had a long, important coffee cultivation history and is today the second largest coffee exporter in the world. Since the 1700s, it’s been producing coveted heirloom, Arabic and blend coffees that are coffee lovers and coffee connoisseurs favorites. With this continuous supply of high quality coffee bean options, Vietnam has developed their own roasting and brewing techniques plus a variety of gourmet coffee types hot or cold for people to enjoy.
On the last leg of my 50-day solo adventure around the world, I spent a week in Hanoi and discovered this was the center of Vietnam's coffee cafe culture. Coffee is so important to Hanoians that it even has a coffee street in the Hai Ba Trung district where more coffee cafes are located than anywhere else in Vietnam.
On my first day of exploring the streets of the city’s Old Quarter, I kept noticing “Egg Coffee” promoted on menu blackboards in front of many restaurants. I wondered what in the world was egg coffee all about because even the name sounded unappealing to me. How could coffee with egg in it possibly taste good?
Being a self confessed coffee lover, enjoying great cups of coffee on my travels has been one of those ritualistic simple pleasures. I discovered Vietnamese coffee, strong coffee served with condensed milk, at breakfast on my first day. I was hooked from my first sip. It was absolutely delicious and strong enough to give me that needed caffeine jolt to get me going. People who know me are aware of my strong coffee addiction. If I don’t have it daily, I feel out of sorts and can be difficult. Bottom line, I was greatly relieved when I realized getting a good cup of coffee would not be a problem in Hanoi.
Always adventurous when it comes to food, I enjoy exploring the food culture wherever I am traveling. Oddly, in Hanoi, I kept avoiding the sampling of egg coffee because it sounded so unappetizing. However, on the last stop of my city Cyclo Tour my guide took me to a very special coffee house, and said we would end our time together over a cup of egg coffee. I was cornered, but I couldn’t refuse.
While the coffee was being made, my guide showed me around the gorgeous, historic coffee house where you entered through a somewhat disconcerting long, narrow alleyway. Once inside, I was thrilled. The courtyard home with its coffee cafe business was so authentic Hanoi. It had the feel of the wonderful courtyard residences I know and love in New Orleans. Antiques, potted plants, fans and even a family altar room reminiscent of what you find in the New Orleans French Quarter. This magical environment relaxed me for what I was about to taste.
My guide shared egg coffee is known as “liquid tiramisu.” Having no bitterness and a buttery, custard taste, this cup of coffee is one of the most popular Vietnamese social drinks. Friends, family, and business associates indulge regularly in this pleasurable snack to celebrate the day. Hearing this, he was warming up to let go of my preconceived negative taste bias.
Likewise, he shared the basic egg coffee recipe with me but said every cafe has its own special formula. The recipe is as follows:
Prep your ingredients: two eggs, sugar, condensed milk, Robusta bean coffee grinds, and boiling water
Whisk the egg yolks with two teaspoons of condensed milk
Brew a cup of Vietnamese coffee using a phin, a single cup brewing device
Add a tablespoon of brewed coffee to the egg/condensed milk concoction and whisk until fully blended
Pour the egg mixture on top of the brewed cup of coffee
Immediately I thought, "wow!" The egg coffee had no hint of an egg taste, and I thought to myself this cup of coffee is beyond belief. It definitely tasted like a dessert with its was velvety, not too sweet, and extremely full-bodied. The best way I can describe delicious drink is it's like drinking strong coffee with custard on the top. I must admit this was the most wonderful cup of gourmet coffee I had ever tasted in my life. I was hooked! Coffee lovers take note. If you haven’t had a cup of Vietnamese coffee, you haven’t totally arrived in the coffee world. Egg coffee is the best!
The video below shows you how to make egg coffee, the world’s “liquid tiramisu.” I would love to hear your comments about this topic.
One added tip: you can purchase online from www.trungnguyen.com, the premier Vietnamese coffee exporter, gourmet Vietnamese coffees and the needed phin to brew them. Kit prices range from $11.98-$28.98.