Nestled in the northern region of Vietnam lies a coffee-growing gem. This region is situated in the northern highlands of the country, boasting an altitude of approximately 500 to 1,500 meters above sea level. An interesting fact about Vietnam is that it is the second-largest coffee producer in the world, right after Brazil
The history of coffee cultivation in Vietnam dates back to the 19th century when French colonists introduced the coffee plant to the country. It was in the 20th century, however, that coffee production in northern Vietnam began to flourish. The region's climate and fertile soil provided ideal conditions for growing Arabica coffee, and by the mid-20th century, coffee farming had become a significant part of the local economy.
Coffee farming in northern Vietnam is characterized by small-scale, family-owned farms, with the majority of coffee growers cultivating their coffee plants on less than two hectares of land. This contrasts with the large-scale coffee plantations found in other coffee-producing countries, allowing for a more intimate and hands-on approach to coffee cultivation.
The coffee plants in northern Vietnam are mostly shade-grown, meaning they are cultivated under the canopy of taller trees. This method of cultivation not only protects the coffee plants from direct sunlight but also helps to maintain a balanced ecosystem that benefits both the plants and the local wildlife.
In terms of processing, there is a wide range of methods used in northern Vietnam, with many farmers employing traditional techniques. The most common processing method is the wet process, also known as the washed method. In this method, the coffee cherries are first depulped to remove the outer skin, then fermented to break down the remaining mucilage. The beans are then washed and spread out to dry, either on raised beds or concrete patios. Some farmers in the region also utilize the dry process, where the coffee cherries are dried in the sun before being hulled to remove the dried skin and pulp.
Coffee from northern Vietnam is known for its unique and complex flavor profile. The high altitude and fertile soil of the region contribute to a coffee that is often described as having bright acidity, medium body, and a delightful range of flavors. Tasting notes commonly found in these coffees include floral, fruity, and citrusy notes, with hints of chocolate and caramel adding depth and richness to the cup. Overall, coffees from northern Vietnam are well-balanced and provide a pleasant, refreshing experience for coffee lovers.
In the world of specialty coffee, Vietnam's northern highlands are gaining recognition for their unique and high-quality coffees. By understanding the history, farming, and processing methods of this region, it is evident that the dedication and passion of local farmers have culminated in exceptional coffee offerings. The distinct flavors and aromas found in coffees from northern Vietnam make them a must-try for any coffee enthusiast seeking new and exciting experiences.