Vietnam, particularly the southern region, has been making a name for itself in the specialty coffee industry. Pronounced as "vee-et-nahm" or "vee-et-nuhm" in the south, Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country located on the eastern edge of the Indochinese Peninsula. The southern region, where most of the country's coffee is grown, is situated at a rough altitude of 500 to 700 meters above sea level. An interesting fact about Vietnam is that it is currently the second largest producer of coffee in the world, after Brazil.
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam by French colonists in the mid-19th century, and the southern region became the focal point for coffee cultivation due to its favorable climate and fertile soil. The coffee industry in Vietnam expanded rapidly during the 20th century, with the country becoming a significant global producer by the 1990s. Although the majority of the coffee grown in Vietnam is the Robusta variety, the southern region has also started to experiment with Arabica coffee in recent years, contributing to the growth of the specialty coffee sector in the country.
Coffee farming in southern Vietnam is characterized by smallholder farmers who typically own plots of land that are less than one hectare in size. Due to the dominance of Robusta coffee in the region, traditional farming methods often prioritize high yields over quality, leading to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, there has been a growing movement towards sustainable and organic farming practices in recent years, particularly among Arabica coffee producers.
In terms of processing methods, the most common method used in Vietnam is the wet processing or washed method, where the coffee cherries are depulped, fermented, and then washed to remove the mucilage before being dried. The dry or natural processing method, where the cherries are dried with the fruit still attached to the bean, is less common but has been gaining popularity in the specialty coffee sector, as it can result in unique flavor profiles. Additionally, the honey processing method, which involves removing the skin and pulp of the cherry but leaving some of the mucilage on the bean during drying, has also been experimented with by some producers in the region.
Southern Vietnam's coffee, especially the Arabica varieties, is known for its distinctive and diverse flavor profiles. The region's coffee often exhibits notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuts, reflecting the influence of the region's terroir and processing methods. Some specialty coffees from the region also showcase fruity and floral notes, with hints of tropical fruits, citrus, and jasmine. The body of these coffees is typically medium to full, with a smooth and balanced acidity.
As the specialty coffee scene in Vietnam continues to grow, more attention is being given to the unique offerings of its southern region. With an increasing focus on sustainable farming practices and innovative processing methods, southern Vietnam is poised to make a lasting impact on the global coffee industry.