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Thai Coffee vs Vietnamese Coffee (What’s the difference?)

Coffee is a beloved beverage all around the world. But in Asia, coffee is loved especially in both Vietnam and Thailand. But what’s the difference and is one better? Let’s explore Thai coffee vs. Vietnamese coffee:

Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee vary notably. Thai coffee is made pour-over style and blends strong coffee, sugar, and occasionally cardamom, served iced with sweetened condensed milk. In contrast, Vietnamese coffee is drip-brewed, mixed with sweetened condensed milk, and taken hot or iced.

Both represent unique Asian coffee traditions.

In this article, we will embark on a journey through two distinct coffee cultures – Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee. Thailand and Vietnam, both enchanting Southeast Asian countries with rich cultural tapestries, have their own unique takes on this caffeinated elixir.

Brief Overview of Thai Coffee and Vietnamese Coffee

Thai coffee, often referred to as “Oliang,” is a delightful brew deeply ingrained in Thai culture. Introduced by King Rama V in the late 19th century, it quickly became an integral part of everyday life.

With its sweet flavor profile and fragrant aroma, Oliang has become synonymous with Thai mornings. Vietnamese coffee, on the other hand, is known for its strong and robust character.

The French colonial influence during the late 19th century sparked the cultivation of coffee plantations across Vietnam. Today, it is famous for its unique brewing method using a “phin” filter that delivers a bold cup of Joe.

More on exactly what that brewing method entails is further down.

Importance of Coffee in Both Thai and Vietnamese Cultures

In both Thailand and Vietnam, coffee holds immense cultural significance beyond being just another beverage to sip on. It serves as an integral part of social gatherings where friends gather to catch up over steaming cups of caffeine-filled goodness.

Whether it’s savoring hot drip-brewed Oliang at a bustling street market or enjoying slow-dripped strong Vietnamese coffee at a quaint café overlooking bustling streets – these rituals are essential aspects of daily life. Moreover, during scorching hot summer days or long hours spent studying or working – iced versions of these local coffees provide a refreshing respite.

The chilled sweetness of Thai iced coffee, with its creamy combination of coffee and sweetened condensed milk is the perfect antidote to beat the heat. Vietnamese iced coffee, with its bold flavors melded with condensed milk and dripped over ice, provides an invigorating pick-me-up.

But you could use evaporated milk for a slightly less sweet version.

Origins and History of Thai and Vietnamese Coffee

Thai Coffee: Introduction by King Rama V

Thai coffee, with its roots traced back to the late 19th century, owes its introduction to none other than the visionary ruler, King Rama V.

In an effort to diversify Thailand’s agricultural landscape, he introduced coffee cultivation. The noble king recognized the potential of this aromatic bean and promoted its growth in the northern region of the country. Thai coffee quickly gained popularity among locals and began making waves in global markets.

Vietnamese Coffee: A Tale of French Influence

The story of Vietnamese coffee wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the intriguing role played by French colonialism. It was during their occupation in the late 19th century that they brought their love for hot coffee to Vietnam’s shores.

The French introduced both the art of cultivating coffee beans and their cherished brewing techniques to the Vietnamese people. The influence was profound, establishing a strong foundation for Vietnam’s prominent position in today’s global coffee industry.

Coffee Growing Regions in Thailand and Vietnam

The Enchanting Land of Thai Coffee

Nestled amidst the misty mountains of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Mae Hong Son provinces, Thai coffee plantations thrive with an abundance of Arabica beans. These regions provide the ideal conditions for cultivating this delicate variety.

The high altitudes, fertile soil, and cool climate result in coffee cherries bursting with nuanced flavors. However, as we venture further south into Thailand’s sun-drenched landscapes, the focus shifts to Robusta beans.

The southern regions become a playground for these robusta coffee beans, known for their strength and resilience against scorching temperatures. Thai coffee lovers can savor both the mild elegance of Arabica and the bold intensity of Robusta within their cup of joe.

The Resilient Spirit of Vietnamese Coffee

In Vietnam’s Central Highland regions such as Dak Lak and Lam Dong, a different coffee story unfolds. These areas are renowned for their thriving coffee plantations dominated by one particular variety: Robusta beans. This hardy species flourishes in Vietnam’s rich soil and adapts well to its tropical climate.

Interestingly enough, the French introduced this variety during their colonial era in Vietnam back in the 19th century. Since then, Robusta coffee grounds have become an integral part of Vietnamese coffee culture and have even played a role in shaping its history during turbulent times such as the Vietnam War.

The main difference between Thai and Vietnamese coffee lies in their predominant varieties – Arabica versus Robusta respectively. While Arabica offers a refined flavor profile with delicate acidity and floral notes, Robusta presents a strong taste characterized by its higher caffeine content and full-bodied nature.

Both countries take immense pride in their respective growing regions that contribute to the unique flavors found within each cup of coffee brewed from their grounds.

So whether you find yourself seeking respite from a hot summer day with a refreshing Thai iced coffee, Thai iced tea, or cozying up with a steaming cup of Vietnamese French roast, these coffee-growing regions have something delightful to offer.

Coffee Varieties and Roasting Methods for Thai and Vietnamese Coffee

Thai coffee: Highlighting Acidity and Floral Notes

When it comes to Thai coffee, connoisseurs appreciate the delicate flavors brought forth by the Arabica varieties such as Typica and Catuai. These beans, grown predominantly in the northern regions of Thailand, lend a unique brightness to the brew.

Thai coffee aficionados prefer light to medium roasts as they accentuate the inherent acidity and floral notes present in these beans. The lighter roast profiles also allow for a cleaner cup of coffee with a delightful aroma that captures your senses from the very first sip.

Vietnamese coffee: Bold and Rich Flavor Profile

In Vietnam, Robusta beans take center stage in their coffee culture. Known for their higher caffeine content compared to Arabica coffee beans, Robusta has become synonymous with authentic Vietnamese coffee.

The roasting process plays a crucial role in shaping its flavor profile. Vietnamese coffee uses dark roast coffee beans to bring out its boldness and intensity.

To enhance this rich flavor, an interesting twist is added during roasting: either butter or oil is introduced into the process. So in a way, they invented the so-called Bulletproof Coffee.

This technique infuses a distinct richness into every cup, giving Vietnamese coffee its signature taste which lingers on your palate long after you’ve taken that final sip.

Brewing Techniques for Thai and Vietnamese Coffee

Thai Coffee: Traditional Drip Brewing with a “Dok Jok” Filter

When it comes to brewing Thai coffee, the traditional method involves using a “dok jok” filter or a cloth bag. This process is all about taking your time to extract the flavors perfectly. First, you’ll need freshly ground coffee beans, preferably Arabica for its delicate notes.

Next, place the ground coffee inside the dok jok filter or muslin bag. The dok jok is a metal handle with a small cup-shaped filter at the end, while a muslin bag is more commonly used by locals.

To brew, pour hot water slowly over the coffee grounds and let it drip through into your cup below. This slow extraction process allows for a clean cup of coffee with bright flavors that truly showcase the quality of the beans.

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Vietnamese Coffee: Unique “Phin” Filter for Intense Flavors

In Vietnam, they have their own unique way of brewing coffee – using a “phin” filter, a traditional Vietnamese coffee filter. This brewing technique creates an intense and bold flavor profile that Vietnamese coffee is famous for.

To brew authentic Vietnamese coffee, you’ll need one of these phin filters and some delicious ground Robusta coffee beans (the preferred variety in Vietnam). Simply place the phin filter on top of your cup and add around two tablespoons of ground coffee into it.

Gently press down on the grounds to create an even surface before pouring some hot water into it; this will initiate the slow-drip process. Letting gravity do its work allows the water to slowly pass through and extract all those rich flavors from the robusta beans.

So in American terms, it’s like a pour-over.

As if this wasn’t delicious enough already, a Vietnamese coffee drink is often served in combination with sweetened condensed milk at the bottom of your cup. By employing these distinct brewing techniques—whether it’s the slow and meticulous Thai drip method or the intense and flavorful Vietnamese phin filter—you can enjoy a cup of coffee that caters to your taste preferences.

That being said, because of the French influence in Vietnam, a French press is often widely used as well.

CLICK HERE to see the best “phin” filter on Amazon.

Serving Styles for Thai and Vietnamese Coffee

Thai Coffee:

When it comes to serving Thai coffee, one of the most beloved and refreshing options is the famous Thai Iced Coffee, also known as Oliang. This delightful concoction is made by combining strong brewed black coffee with sweetened condensed milk, which gives it a creamy and indulgent touch.

The coffee is then poured over a glass filled with ice cubes, creating a cool beverage that is perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot summer day. In addition to the classic Thai Iced Coffee, urban cafes in Thailand are embracing the espresso culture and offering a wide range of espresso-based drinks.

You can now find variations like Latte or Cappuccino made with Thai-grown beans, adding a unique twist to these popular beverages. These drinks not only provide an energizing boost but also allow you to appreciate the distinct flavors that Thai coffee brings to the table.

Vietnamese Coffee:

Vietnamese coffee has its own set of signature serving styles that highlight its bold and rich flavor. One of the most iconic ways to enjoy Vietnamese coffee is by using a “phin” filter—a small metal ring filter that gets placed atop a cup containing condensed milk.

Hot water slowly drips through the filter into the cup, creating a strong brew that merges with the sweetness of condensed milk. The traditional Vietnamese iced coffee follows a similar process but is served over ice rather than hot water.

The result is an invigorating beverage that combines intense flavors with refreshment on those scorching days. It’s worth mentioning that Vietnamese people often prefer their coffee strong, so you can expect an extra kick from those Robusta coffee beans known for their higher caffeine content.


Both Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee offer a delightful array of serving styles and popular drinks that cater to different tastes and preferences. Thai Iced Coffee, with its combination of sweetened condensed milk and aromatic spices, provides a unique and refreshing experience.

On the other hand, Vietnamese coffee, whether enjoyed in its hot or iced form, showcases the distinct richness and intensity that comes from the use of robusta beans.

Whether you’re sipping on a Thai Iced Coffee on a hot summer day or enjoying the slow drip brewing process of Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, these beverages take us on a sensory journey that showcases the diverse world of coffee.

So go ahead, explore different serving styles, experiment with various flavors, and embark on your own personal adventure to discover your perfect cup of coffee!

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Jeff Campbell