Coffee, and all that comes with it, has a long and rich history in both Belgium and Vietnam, with each country having their own unique way of preparing and enjoying this popular beverage.
From the cafes that line the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the small coffee shops in Brussels, let's explore the fascinating world of Belgian and Vietnamese coffee culture.
How coffee planted its roots in Belgium
Belgian coffee culture has a pretty long and rich history, dating back to the 17th century. The first coffee house in Brussels opened its doors in 1615, and by the mid-1800s, there were over 300 cafes in the city.
With its colonial history in Africa, Belgium initially satisfied its thirst for coffee with beans from Congo and Rwanda. Today, they source coffee beans from all around the world, including our Belvico beans from Vietnam!
Belgians love their coffee. It's a key part of daily life. Only a few years ago, in 2016, Belgium was ranked no.8 in the list of "top coffee-consuming countries". Coffee became so important to Belgians that today in Flanders, seven types of coffee are officially nominated as a "regional product".
In Belgium, it is standard to have coffee with your breakfast. They even came up with a unique coffee-inspired name for the pastries that typically accompany their coffee during weekend breakfasts: "koffiekoeken", which literally translates into “coffee pastries”.
How coffee became a staple in Vietnam
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in the 1800s when it was mainly used as a drink for the wealthy and French colonialists. Over time, Vietnamese people began to appreciate the unique taste and flavour more, and it soon became a staple in the Vietnamese culture.
As the second-largest coffee producer in the world, it is no surprise that more than 3 million locals are now working in this industry. Vietnamese coffee is popular worldwide because it's fairly inexpensive while still maintaining high quality. At Belvico, we are dedicated to improving the quality of Vietnamese beans and putting Vietnam's coffee and farmers on the map.
Similar to Belgium, coffee is an important part of Vietnamese daily life. You can find casual street-side stalls with their typic, little plastic stools on every corner of the street whether you're in the countryside or a big city. Each province has its own preferred taste and serving style which makes the coffee culture in Vietnam so unique.
An aromatic wake-up call
In Belgium, coffee is usually enjoyed in the morning. Nothing beats the smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Plus, it helps to wake you up. Coffee is also popular in the afternoon as a pick-me-up. Belgian coffee is typically brewed using an espresso machine, resulting in a less strong, yet flavourful cup.
A unique type of coffee known for its Belgian roots is the "Cafe Liégeois". As the name suggests, it was invented in the city of Liège. It is a coffee with Dubonnet (a type of wine), and curaçao (an orange-flavored liqueur). You can get a Cafe Liégeois in most Belgian cafes. It's a popular drink among locals.
Another very popular, and typical Belgian drink is the "Dreupel": a coffee-flavoured gin Belgium is well-renowned for. Some cafes created a variant of this beverage using hot coffee, a shot of gin, cane sugar and some whipped cream. It is a delicious and decadent drink!
Slow, yet strong & sweet
Vietnamese coffee is typically brewed using dark roast coffee and chicory. The coffee is poured over a small metal filter called a "phin", which sits on top of the glass.
Contrary to Belgians, the Vietnamese drink coffee all day long! Some say the process of watching the coffee drip into the glass is meditative and that it provides a welcome break in a busy day.
Because Vietnamese coffee is so strong, condensed milk is usually added to create a more balanced flavour. Walking around the streets in Vietnam you'll see people enjoying their coffee in small sips while making conversation or simply engaging in some people-watching. It makes the whole act of coffee drinking quite a relaxing process.
Next to the most commonly used drip-brew, Ca Phe Coc (chocolate coffee) and Ca Phe Sua Da (coffee with milk and ice) are two of the most popular ways to drink coffee. Ca Phe Coc is brewed like a regular Vietnamese coffee with an extra scoop of unsweetened cacao powder added to the coffee grind. Ca Phe Sua is similar to what most know as an iced latte.
The coffee culture in Vietnam is unique; whether you like your coffee strong and bitter, or sweet and creamy, there's a Vietnamese coffee for you.
The two coffee cultures have different tastes and flavours. Vietnamese coffee is typically sweet, while Belgian coffee is more bitter.
We hope that next time you're in Vietnam, you can take some time to stop by a local cafe to relax and meditate on that coffee drip. And if you're in Belgium, make sure to order a Cafe Liégeois or try a Dreupel – you won't be disappointed!