Thai and Vietnamese coffee culture is one that is filled to the brim with history. These delicious coffees have slowly made their way across the world and have left people wanting more.

With the coffee industry in South East Asia being valued at a whopping $8.2 USD in 2023, it is only expected to grow with some Vietnamese coffee roaster even making their way into the specialty coffee industry.

While there are definitely some differences between the two countries coffee stories, there are also many similarities.

We cover a fair amount of content today, so if you’re in a pinch for some information, here is a quick summary of the differences and similarities between Thai and Vietnamese coffee.

Feel free to click on the main topic and jump to that section of the article for more information!

History: Thai coffee production started around the 1960’s while Vietnam’s started around 1890

Beans: Both mainly grow and use robusta beans

Brewing: Vietnam uses a Phin filter while Thailand uses a sock filter

Milk: Sweetened condensed milk is commonly used in both countries’ coffees

Roasting methods: Dark roasted coffee is most common in both countries

Other topics discussed: Flavor ProfilesWhere To BuyBrew At Home, Overall Summary

Thai Vs. Vietnamese Coffee: History, Beans, and More

Origin & History Of Thai Coffee

Coffee culture in Thailand started way later than you may think, only truly beginning in the 1960’s.

The king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, wanted to move the country towards a more beneficial (and legal) way to make money. At the time, their main source of income was through opium crops.

This movement was named The Royal Projects and got Thailand started on their iconic Robusta coffee production.

While the industry may not have started until the 60’s, coffee started being enjoyed in Thailand after being introduced by Dutch traders in the 19th century.

Unfortunately, the coffee beans were primarily grown in Indonesia and were pretty poor quality at the time.

Because of this people commonly added sugar or butter to help mask the bitter taste of the drink.

This sugary coffee drink was named, O’yua, (hot black coffee) and essentially is the precursor to the now popular, O’liang, (iced black coffee).

Commonly Ordered Thai Coffee Drinks

There are 5 main types of coffee drinks that you can find in Thailand.

The names are self-explanatory when translated as the world in the Thai correlates to how the coffee is made.

For instance, Gafae = coffee and Yen = iced, therefore Gafae Yen is iced coffee.

  • Gafae Yen: Thai iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk
  • Gafae Ron: Thai hot coffee w/ condensed milk

  • O’liang: Black & iced coffee

  • O’yua: Black & hot coffee

  • O’liang Yok Law: O’liang coffee with evaporated milk added

Origin & History Of Vietnamese Coffee

Unlike Thailand, Vietnam’s coffee culture started substantially earlier.

Vietnam was a part of French Indochina up until 1954 and therefore the beginning of their coffee journey was strongly influenced by the French.

An Arabica coffee plant was first introduced to the country by a French catholic priest in the 1850’s.  By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the coffee industry had started the grow.

This is almost 60 years before Thailand even started growing their coffee plants!

The coffee production continued to grow until a large production plant was created in 1950 to start properly producing and exporting Vietnamese coffee.

By 1999, Vietnam became the second biggest supplier of coffee in the world, and today they produce around 40% of the worlds Robusta coffee beans.

Commonly Ordered Coffee in Vietnam

Listed below are four commonly ordered types of coffee in Vietnam.

Already you can see one of the differences between Thai and Vietnamese coffee, the type of milk used.

While Thai coffee primarily uses condensed milk or evaporated milk, topping your coffee with a creamy egg mixture or coconut milk is not uncommon in Vietnam.

  • Ca phe nau: Vietnamese iced coffee

  • Ca phe sua: Vietnamese hot coffee

  • Ca phe truang: Egg coffee

  • Sua cha ca phe: Yogurt coffee

  • Ca phe cot dua: Coconut Coffee

Coffee Beans Used in Vietnamese and Thai Coffee

Both Vietnam and Thailand largely produce and export the same type of coffee bean, Robusta.

if you are not familiar with the difference between Robusta and Arabica coffee beans, here’s a quick recap:

There are two types of coffee beans that are used in the industry, Arabica and Robusta.

If you normally drink coffee, you are most likely drinking a roast made from Arabica beans as it accounts for between 60-70% of the coffee we drink.

To put it simply, Arabica beans tend to be the preferred choice as they create a sweeter and less bitter flavor than Robusta beans.

However, robusta beans are still grown around the world and are commonly the beans used in instant coffee. 

Now, although Robusta beans account for less than half of the world’s coffee supply, there are some major benefits to growing this bean over Arabica.

Enviornmental Influences

Robusta coffee trees tend to thrive in lower altitudes, between 0 and 800m above sea level. Ideally, the trees will also be grown in a tropical climates with distinct wet and dry seasons.

If we look at Vietnam, the central highlands were the first location for coffee to be grown in the country.

This area has the perfect environment for robusta beans to thrive as opposed to Arabica trees, which prefer a much higher elevation.

You can find Arabica bean production in Vietnam today, but it will be located in the more mountainous areas.

If you look at the maps of both countries below, you can see a distinct difference in where Robusta beans (red pin) and Arabica beans (blue pin) are grown.

Some of the main regions in each country where coffee is grown is as follows:


Vietnam: Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Dak Nong, Lam Dong, Kon Tum

Thailand: Ranong, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Phang Nga, Nakhon Si Thammarat


Vietnam: Da Lat, Dien Bien, Nghe An, Son La, Quang Tri

Thailand: Mae Hong Son, Chaing Mai, Chaing Rai, Lampang, Tak

Durability of the Plant

Farmers tend to find that growing Robusta trees is much easier than growing Arabica trees.

This is due to the genetic makeup of the tree itself. Robusta trees are more resilient to disease, insects and tend to produce more fruit than Arabica trees.

All in all, growing robusta trees tend to be less work for those growing them.

Both countries started to produce Arabica beans in the late 90’s and early 2000’s but on a much smaller scale.

Today, Vietnam’s coffee production comes to about 90% Robusta beans and 10% Arabica beans.

How Are Vietnamese and Thai Coffee Beans Roasted?

Both Vietnamese and Thailand traditionally create dark roast coffee beans. This means the beans spend a longer time in the roaster.

This roast time can range from 15 minutes to even an hour.

Traditionally, Vietnamese coffee is roasted using a drum style method over an open fire. The beans are roasted in an oil-y combination of sugar, cocoa and vanilla to give the beans the unique flavor they are known for.

In Thailand, a traditional roasting technique is to first roast the beans as normal. This could be using a drum style method like Vietnam, or another method.

The roasted beans will then be roasted again after adding other ingredients such as brown rice, soy beans, or cardamom.

Similar to Vietnamese coffee, sugar will be added at the end to add a coat of caramelization to the beans. Brown sugar is typically used for this step of the process.

Vietnamese & Thai Coffee: The Different Brewing Processes

We’ve talked about how Thai and Vietnamese coffee is known for their strong and robust flavor profiles.

This is in part because of the dark roast robusta beans used but also the brewing method.

Traditionally, both types of coffee are brewed using a slow drip method that takes around 5 minutes to make a cup of coffee.

Because of how long the water takes to go through the coffee grounds with this method, the flavors of the beans are intensified even further.

The main difference in the brewing methods between the countries comes down to the type of filter used.

The Phin Filter

A traditional Phin filter

This Vietnamese filter consists of 4 different parts:

  • A brew chamber

  • A filter plate

  • A lid to trap heat

  • A gravity press filter

You first place the metal filter plate on top of whatever glass you would like to use, followed by the brew chamber.

You then add the amount of the ground coffee beans you would like to use, followed by the gravity press filter.

After this, top it up with hot water and leave the lid on for it to brew. This method of brewing is slow, and around 5-6 minutes in total.

Again, this slow dripping method creates a more intense and flavorful tasting cup of coffee that will wake you up immediately!

If you would like to try this method at home, this is a recommended Phin filter to use.

The Sock Filter

A modern take on the traditional sock filter

The traditional Thai brewing method consists of a sock filter. Which, you guessed it, is a filter that looks like a sock.

The sock filter is attached to a ring and a metal handle. To use it, you place the coffee grounds within the sock filter and placed the filter on top of your favorite cup.

Similar to the Vietnamese method, you will pour the water into the filter and let the coffee slowly drip the cup.

This method is again, considered a slow brew method, giving a lovely strong flavor to the cup of coffee.

If you would like to try this method at home, this is a recommended sock filter to use.

Milk Used In Vietnamese & Thai Coffee

As we discussed earlier, both Thai and Vietnamese coffee offer very strong and bold flavors, especially when slow brewed.

Because of this strong and often bitter taste the coffee has, sweeteners and milk are often added to elevate the flavors and reduce the bitterness.

There are few different types of milk that are used in both countries:

  • Sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk was introduced to Vietnam by the French back in the late 1800’s.

Remember when we talked about the influence the French had in Vietnam’s coffee culture? The addition of sweetened condensed milk was a major part of it.

While they were initially looking for normal milk to use, dairy was not common in the country and therefore had to be imported from Europe.

Since the normal milk would spoil on the trip, they chose sweetened condensed milk instead as it would survive the long journey overseas.

Sweetened condensed milk is also used in Thai coffee.

Back before O’liang was a common drink, the locals added butter and sugar to their O’yua coffee to hide the bitter and burnt taste.

  • Coconut Milk

A popular addition in Vietnamese coffee is coconut milk. It can be used on its own to make sure the coffee is dairy free or add it to the condensed milk to add another layer of flavors.

  • Evaporated Milk

You may find evaporated milk in some Thai coffees such as Gafae Ron and O’liang Yok law.

This thicker version of milk adds an additional nutty flavor and creaminess to the coffee.

The Unique Flavor profiles of Vietnamese & Thai Coffee

Both Thai and Vietnamese coffee have unique flavor profiles that keep people coming back for more.

Many intense flavors come from the roasting methods.

Take Vietnamese coffee for example, when it is roasted in sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, some of these flavors appear in the final brewed product.

When Thai coffee, is made, the Robusta beans are mixed with a number of other ingredients such as corn, soybeans, and sesame seeds.  This adds another layer of flavors to the bean itself, so the coffee is sure to pack a flavor punch.

Another factor that influences the flavor profile is the type of coffee bean used

As we talked about before, Robusta beans are the most common to find in both of these countries.

Robusta beans tend to provide a more nutty, chocolatey, and bitter coffee flavor.

If you opt towards Arabica beans instead, you might have a sweeter, smoother and more acidic coffee.

Lastly, both traditional coffees are considered relatively sweet due to the addition of sweetened condensed milk.

Thai style coffee also has sugar added in pretty much every drink, even if you order an “O’yua” which is considered a black hot coffee.

The use of Robusta beans helps balance out some of the sweetness with the bold flavor the beans provide but if you don’t like your coffee as sweet, feel free to add less sweetened condensed milk or take it out all together!

The Caffeine Content In Thai & Vietnamese Coffee

Both Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee are made using Robusta beans and are brewed using a slow drip method.

Because of these two factors,, the caffeine content tends to be slightly higher than a cup of coffee that uses arabica beans.

There will be around 100-120 mg of caffeine in a standard cup of Thai or Vietnamese coffee, this is compared to the around 95mg of caffeine you will find in a normal 8oz cup of coffee.

Where To Buy Vietnamese and Thai Coffee Beans

Are you convinced you want to give Vietnamese or Thai coffee a try?

As both Vietnamese and Thai coffee have become extremely popular in the last few decades, you can find both types of coffees quite easily.

If you want to try making your own Vietnamese coffee at home, these companies are a great place to start!

Just click the heading to be re-directed to the company site.

Nguygen Coffee Supply

Nyguen coffee is a specialty coffee roaster that sources their beans from the central highlands of Vietnam.

They offer a few different types of coffee beans that allow you to choose what you want based off the flavor profile you’re looking for!

Some of their popular blends are:

  • Moxy Blend: A 100% Arabica blend with a fruity and sweet flavor profile
  • Loyalty Blend: A nutty and smooth flavor profile
  • Truegrit Blend: A blend of 100% Robusta beans and double the caffeine as the Moxy blend!

O’liang Powder Mix

Even if you’re not planning on making O’liang at home, this is a Robusta bean powder that is widely recommended for making Thai coffee.

You’ll find some of the extra ingredients we talked about earlier (corn and soybeans) mixed into this blend. 

Making Vietnamese & Thai coffee at home

Now, I personally have not made Vietnamese or Thai coffee at home, yet!

So, instead of giving you step by step instructions on how to make the most authentic cup, I will leave you with two videos I think would be fantastic guides to making one of these coffees at home!

Pailin does a fantastic job of taking you through 4 delicous Thai coffee recipes in this video. I also recommend checking out her channel if you love Thai food!

This video on Vietnamese coffee is created by the owner of Nyugen Coffee Supply, Sahra, so I promise you are in good hands!

Summary: The Differences & Similarities Between Thai and Vietnamese Coffee

The coffee industry has influenced Thailand and Vietnam so much over the last few decades.

Both countries have grown to become major suppliers of coffee with Vietnam producing 40% of the robusta beans in the world.

Due to the climate in both countries, Robusta is the main bean that has been produced in both countries.

While Arabica beans are now produced in both, the Robusta bean has led to the bold and bitter flavors both coffees are known for. 

The first difference you might find between the two coffees, happens when the beans are roasted.

Although both countries commonly produce dark roasted beans, both countries add different ingredients, such as vanilla, sesame seeds, or cardamon to elevate the flavor.

Finally, while you will find both countries use condensed milk in their coffees and have sweeter coffee drinks, they are brewed using different filters.

While Vietnam uses a Phin filter, you’ll find in Thailand they use a sock filter. But even though they are different filters, they are both slow drip methods, creating that strong cup of coffee we all love!

Overall, both countries produce a coffee that is absolutely delicious and loved around the world. If you have a chance to try one of the two, I highly recommend it!


What is egg coffee?

Egg coffee is a popular type of Vietnamese coffee that combines delicious robusta beans, brewed with the traditional Vietnamese coffee filter, the Phin filter, with a cream made from egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk.

Nguyen Coffee has put out a fantastic video on how to make the perfect egg coffee at home. You can watch it here!

Does Drinking Vietnamese Or Thai Coffee Break A Fast?

Typically, fasting involves not eating any food or drinking anything that contains calories for a certain period of time.

Although consuming black coffee does not break a fast, drinking coffee with milk, or in this case, sweetened condensed milk, would break a fast due to the number of calories in the condensed milk.

Do You Need A Phin Filter To Make Vietnamese Coffee?

The slow drip nature of the Phin filter creates the strong intense flavor Vietnamese coffee is known for.

If you don’t have a Phin filter but still want to make a more traditional tasting Vietnamese coffee, there are some alternatives.

You can use a French press with a high coffee to water ratio to try and bring through that strong flavor that Vietnamese coffee is known for.

You can also try using espresso as a base for the coffee, as it also has a very strong flavor.

In order to try and get that authentic Vietnamese coffee flavor, try using 100% robusta beans from Vietnam!

As always, thank you for reading today’s article! Have you tried Vietnamese or Thai Coffee before? Drop a comment to share your experience!


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