The second largest exporter of coffee in the world, Vietnam grows the majority of its coffee in the central highlands and we found plenty of farms near Da Lat. Only second to Brazil in production, this country isn’t just an exporter. There is a true coffee culture here. In Da Lat, also a university town, we found dozens of awesome coffee shops, both big and small.
Salt Coffee. Vietnamese coffee slowly brews into the ceramic cups on our table. A small, metal single-cup personalized French Press, used across the country for drinking traditional Vietnamese coffee, takes patience but is worth the wait. The result is an inch of strong, thick, black coffee accompanied by a small pitcher of hot water to make a local version of an Americano - with far more kick. Smoothies and blended coffee drinks are served in mason jars with a small ribbon wrapped around the top. Opt for a smoothie made with locally-grown fruits, such as mango or coconut. The iced mocha puts a frappucino to shame. Perfect for a hot day (or rainy afternoon, like when we visited!).
Windmills. A trendy coffee shop near the center of Da Lat with a partially open air rooftop serving coffee drinks (both Vietnamese and Italian), smoothies, pastries and cakes. Where we stopped was a space far removed from the omnipresent sights, sounds, and smells of Vietnam’s busy streets, but Windmills has multiple locations. It’s a sneak peek in to the young, hip vibe of this hill town that’s clearly influenced by its namesake university.
‘Weasel’ Coffee. A short drive out of the city and you’ll find yourself among the coffee farmers of the central highlands. In a valley as picturesque as almost any in the world, a coffee delicacy is being created. Known as Kopi Luwak in Indonesia, but simply Weasel coffee in Vietnam, we’re talking about coffee beans that have been pooped out by civet cats (weasels). The animals eat what the producers believe to be the best berries, then defecate, leaving behind enzymes which create a coffee that’s even better than before.
At first taste, it’s smoky and chocolatey, the ‘cherry’ version (for lady, apparently) a little sweeter than the ‘moka’ bean (strong, for man). Overlooking the strikingly beautiful countryside, this could be some of the best coffee we’ve ever had. Mind blowing Vietnamese coffee experience… check.
*As with any product made with or from animals, the ethical treatment, or lack thereof, should always be considered. Through our research, we found that many people and organizations have serious concerns about how these animals are treated and whether the process is humane. The farm we visited featured only a few, seemingly unharmed and well-treated weasels. However, we are finding that animals are often exploited for the purposes of tourism and will not support and report on any situation that is questionable.
Also worth mentioning are Bicycle Coffee and the cafe at Les Sapins 60. Both seemed like very cool spots and we'll stop by for a cup when we're back in Da Lat.
Coffee, coffee, coffee. We can't get enough, but luckily Vietnam's got plenty of it.