The History of Coffee in Vietnam: A Story of Reclamation

Coffee beans on plant

In many ways, Vietnam’s relationship with coffee is a story of reclamation. Today, the country is the world’s second-largest exporter of coffee, but the plant isn’t native to the country itself. In fact, coffee was only introduced to Vietnam in the late 19th century by French colonialists. 

So, here’s the history of coffee in Vietnam, how it went from a cash crop for the colonial government to boosting the country’s economy and eventually becoming an integral part of its vibrant culinary culture.

Coffee beans in hand
Picture courtesy of Unsplash​​

The Beginning: When was Coffee Brought to Vietnam?

Vietnam officially became a French colony in 1858, however, France had already established several religious and trade footholds long before that. Coffee was brought by French missionaries in 1857, the plant thrived in Vietnam's warm and humid climate and soon became an important crop for the French colonial government.

Interestingly, these initial small-scale plantations grew arabica coffee plants. It wasn’t until 1908 that the French introduced robusta coffee beans to the region, and now Vietnam is the world’s leading producer of robusta coffee!

The Boom: Developing Vietnam’s Coffee Industry

The early 20th century saw the height of Vietnam’s burgeoning coffee industry. Small-scale production shifted to larger commercial plantations, and designated production zones were established in the Central Highlands, like the Đắk Lắk Province, which is still an important coffee-growing region. The French government also provided financial incentives to farmers to encourage them to grow coffee, and soon the crop became one of the country's main exports.

Coffee farm
​Picture courtesy of Unsplash​
Coffee beand plant
Picture courtesy of Unsplash​​

Effects of the War & Recovery

Unfortunately, during the Vietnam War (1955 - 1975), coffee production came to a near standstill. After the Northern Vietnamese victory, the new government sought to collectivize the agricultural sector (including the coffee industry) and limit private enterprise resulting in low production. 

Following the Đổi Mới reforms in 1986 which sought to create a socialist-oriented market economy, things changed for the better. Private enterprise was allowed and encouraged, thus more companies sought to modernize operations, which helped to increase the efficiency of the sector and improve the quality of Vietnamese coffee.

How Coffee is Enjoyed in Vietnam

While coffee may not have been native to the country, Vietnamese people have really made it their own – we told you it’s a story about reclamation! In fact, Vietnamese coffee is so good that it’s virtually impossible to get a bad cup of coffee while you’re there. From the world-famous Vietnamese iced coffee to the creamy and delicious egg coffee, Vietnam has loads of different types of specialty coffee that you must try if you travel there. 

Coffee in Vietnam Today

Coffee has been an integral part of Vietnam’s socio-economic fabric. From the country’s strong coffee culture to the booming coffee industry, coffee has been an important aspect of Vietnamese life for centuries, and it continues to do so. 

It’s amazing to think that this plant has the potential to provide employment opportunities to thousands of people, stimulate economic growth, and bring people together over a cup of delicious coffee. 

Being a first-gen Vietnamese-American and woman-owned brand, we could not be prouder to be even a small part of Vietnam's long and rich coffee history and to honor this delicious tradition. Our ready-to-drink Vietnamese iced coffees come in five fiery flavors with dairy and non-dairy options. Each canned coffee is entirely unique and is an homage to the bright and bold flavors of Vietnam. 

Snag some SANG today and let’s make history.