When it comes to rank the producer of coffee worldwide, many other country come in mind before Vietnam, although Vietnam is the second largest producer after Brazil and the first one producing Robusta coffee.
Introduced by the French at the end of the 19th century, coffee production has grown ever since. It has been a huge source of income in Vietnam and a large part of the primary resources export production. The industry employs more than 2 millions people all over Vietnam, which brought the number of people living under the poverty line down to 10%, compare to the 60% in 1994.
Coffee is not only a good thing that happens to Vietnam it is also a delicious beverage that has many different ways to be drunk. In Vietnam you often drink it cold, with or without condensed milk. In some places you can even ad an egg or two.
Drinking coffee in Vietnam is definitely something else than in any other country. It takes time, a lot of time. You will receive a metallic filter above a transparent glass. After a short time you will see the first drop gently falling into the condensed milk at the bottom of the glass. It is going to take some time before all the water goes through the grounded coffee.
Personally what makes me decide if it is a good coffee or if it is a great one is the way it is served and here I am not talking about fancy cup or furniture I am talking about the person, the person serving it. I have a favourite coffee place in Nha Trang, and for sure it is not the fanciest place or the most advertised, it is just a coffee at the corner. The first place I had a coffee when I first arrived in Nha Trang. The man appeared quite busy going around with tea, with coffee, cleaning up the table; basically doing everything. When he came to us he joyfully asked us “Hai Ca Fe Sua Da?” (Two iced coffee with milk?). I am still going there almost every day and he keeps smiling and taking my order, as I was his first guest ever. Even in the worse days this man would cheers you up only by asking you what do you want to drink. You will then receive a cold tea followed by your cold coffee, which will taste amazing!
Mr Tho and his wife Mrs Phung are the lovely couple that own and work at the coffee place. He has two sons and a daughter in law. The two boys went away from Nha Trang to work in the south of Vietnam. They have not visited him for a while because of their demanding jobs while his daughter in law is living with them in the family house, which is also the coffee place.
The couple opened the coffee shop in 1992 and until 2002 in addition to the coffee they were also cooking “beef hot pot”.
The haunt was the main person in charge until the owners both quitted their job in 2008 to exclusively work at the Coffee house. From then till now they are organized in shift between the haunt, the “coffee man” and his wife.
The day is rough; it starts at 4:30am with the first guest and ends around 6:30pm to 7:30pm depending on the remaining clients. During a busy day they will serve up to hundred people. When I heard that, my first reaction was: ”when do get some rest?” they smiled at me and explained that if they are close for a day people will go to the coffee next door and not come back. Therefore they are working everyday of the week, every week of the year and this for the past 23 years.
Even if they cannot go away or don’t have any day off, they are happy. Unlike most of the Vietnamese people they don’t need their children to support them as they work at home with a part of the family. They have their daily routine. They told me that at 12:30pm they were all having lunch together and diner at closing time, then going to bed in order to start a new early morning day.
They proudly showed me the coffee they were using, as it is a premium 100% organic grounded coffee. They also told me that only three people where allowed to do the coffee and depending on the person the coffee would taste different. I can only agree to that because even if the coffee is as good in the morning as in the afternoon it does not exactly taste the same.
Then the wife looked at me and told me that she has been making coffee for over ten years and she realized that general taste changed from a very concentrated coffee to a lighter one, which still is quite bitter if you drink it without condensed milk!
The coffee is everything to them and even if it is maybe not the tastier; the sitting is not the most confortable; when you go there you understand what Vietnamese coffee is all about, people.