Experiencing Vietnam’s famed egg coffee

Image - Vanessa L Facenda

I was invited by the Vietnam Tea Association (VITAS) to visit tea gardens and factories in several northern provinces in Vietnam to assess the country’s efforts to improve the quality and reputation of their tea, both black and green. I touched upon my trip, which took place in late July, in last week’s blog, but a more in-depth story will run in our November issue.

I spent most of my time in the mountains in the Son La and Phu Tho provinces, but I did spend a couple of days and nights in Hanoi, where I experienced the thriving tea and coffee scenes (both are incredibly vibrant). The city is filled with teahouses – The Alley, Royal Tea, TeCoTeCo and King Tea, to name just a few – that specialize in bubble teas, milk teas and fruit and herbal tea infusions. There seems to be a tea concoction to suit every flavour palate, and the sweetness can be adjusted, which is fortunate as the standard way is entirely too sweet for me! At ShareTea, I tried an “Oolong Tea Creama,” which is sweetened oolong tea with a sweet creamy topping (it could have been cream cheese but I’m not certain). Although I typically drink only unsweetened tea with no additives such as milk, the sweet oolong tea was refreshing on the excruciatingly hot, humid day, but I could not finish the entire drink – too filling!

Coffee is considered a relatively “new” beverage in Vietnam as it did not appear until the late 1800s when the French introduced it after colonizing the country. (Vietnam is now the world’s second largest producer of coffee, but it is primarily Robusta.) Each congested block in Hanoi has several coffeehouses, cafés or tiny shops offering Vietnamese coffee, Vietnamese lattes and other Vietnamese coffee combinations, while many also featured Italian style espresso and cappuccino (proudly boasting on signage and menus that it was “Italian style” coffee). Highlands Coffee is the most ubiquitous chain in Hanoi, but AHA Coffee also has multiple locations, and there was even a Coffee Club and Restaurant near Hoan Kiem Lake.

Regardless of the type or size of the establishment, the popular coffee beverage in Hanoi is egg coffee. I was skeptical at first but decided to try it. I ordered one after dinner, but the waiter informed me (it was on the menu as a Signature Drink) that the restaurant does not serve egg coffee at night because it is bad for digestion.

The next morning, I stopped by Conifer Coffee and ordered their egg coffee (I had previously sampled their Vietnamese Latte, and although typically sweet, it was probably the best one I had during my trip). Egg coffee takes about eight to ten minutes to prepare, and I admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste as it was no where near as sweet as regular Vietnamese coffee. It was very creamy and foamy. In fact, there seemed to be more silky foam than actual coffee. So, what is egg coffee?

Cà phê trúng or egg coffee is a Northern Vietnamese specialty that originates in the late 1940s when Vietnam was at war with France and there was a milk shortage, which apparently led to whipped eggs replacing the condensed milk that was traditionally used. Today, egg coffee is made with whipped egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and Robusta coffee. To me it tasted like coffee with a layer of sweet meringue on top, but others have compared the taste to tiramisu. If in Vietnam, egg coffee is worth trying, if only just to see if it lives up to its in-country fame.

However, apparently, egg coffee has now found its way to North America. There is even a café here in New York City offering it so I may just have to test their version of egg coffee. (Will they use Robusta as in Vietnam, Arabica as most coffeehouses in the US use or an Arabica/Robusta blend…?) I’ll be curious to see what the consumer response in North America will be, but with ever-changing palates and the multitude of coffee-blended beverages available today appealing to every taste, style and whimsy, why not egg coffee?

While you’re here, voting is now open for the inaugural Tea & Coffee Global Supplier Awards. Two awards will be presented – Best Tea Supplier and Best Coffee Supplier. Cast your vote via the Tea & Coffee World Cup website – https://www.tcworldcup.com/awards/

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