Coffee Culture in Southeast Asia


Like its awesome food reputation, coffee culture in Southeast Asia gains lots of attention from the world. Under the flux of modernization and Western lifestyle influence, coffee traditions in the East does evolve, to a certain level of emergence, yet, partly remains its authenticity to flavors and form.

The strong farmed coffee, condensed milk, sugar and great ways to drink coffee make this signature one of the most fascinating aligns amongst travel joys.

Turn that page into coffee culture, Sens Asia would like to help you with a clearer mutual understanding in regards to this addictive beverage because coffee in Southeast Asia is like no other!

How coffee culture evolve around Southeast Asian countries

Vietnam: Funky fresh is Vietnamese coffee style. Any common coffee shops in the streets sell coffee with large package of newly roasted beans. Thick flavor plus extreme bitter taste lingering inside the mouth reflect the Robusta orientation in the country’s coffee culture. From colonial time to present day, locals stick with strong drip filter coffee, which allows 90% of the essence to remain within one cup. In the North, “cà phê sữa đá” (Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk) plays important role as day starter in regular breakfast (even after lunch or favorite evening beverage) while Southern people focus on a lighter theme of “bạc sỉu” (milk coffee). Nowadays, the coffee revolution in Vietnam is remarkable. You can get tasty access to new challenging yet fascinating flavors off egg coffee, coconut coffee or so on.

Thailand: Generally, Thailand and Vietnam share similar background when comes to coffee with Oliang  (iced black coffee, “o” means “black” and “liang” means “cold”) the most popular pattern. Traditional coffee is usually made from roasted espresso beans over intense charcoal fire. Thai brew the coffee mixture in hot water, let it soaked and cooled to serve over ice.


Indonesia: Basically, coffee in Indonesia calls the common names of arabica, robusta and liberica with distinct taste to note on. Their characteristics, fruity, clean, nutty and smooth are great explanation for coffee-lovers. To those who crave for juicy flavor, Malabar Natural originating from West Java is perfect aroma with sweet caramel and fruit scents. Choco-addicts can dig in the Toraja from South Sulawesi, with cocoa and nutty flavors. The most common type should be Aceh gayo coffee, contains the acid or earthy-flavor, which is served nationwide.


Laos: While Vietnam coffee does justice to for foodies visiting Southeast Asia, Laotian coffee offers that bit of romance to Laotian lifestyle. Most of the coffee production in Laos is grown on Bolaven Plateau, whereby, there lie stunning waterfalls and scenic mountain views. The sprawling coffee plantations here produce refining Arabica and classic Robusta coffee beans, with organic farming module, which allows travelers to come visit, enjoy the fresh coffee in the skyline station hanging between waterfalls. Although Arabica is favored by lots of visitors, Robusta plays important role in daily consumption, with thick, bold and caffeine-rich in flavor. The way of having coffee in Laos is similar to Thailand, where people typically drink heavily sweetened coffee with extra ices or even powdered coffee in small cups. If that’s not your jam, make sure you ask ahead of time how the coffee is brewed.

The art of ingredient roasting and coffee making


In Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, locals traditionally prepare coffee by roasting until nearly black, mainly by using vegetable fat. Once beans have been roasted they are ground up, and this fine powder is used to brew a very rich and dark cup of coffee. While the Thai, Khmer and Laotian people proves their significance in coffee flavors by using either a cloth pouch, Vietnamese prefers one by one drip strained through the metal filter.

In Thailand, the flavor booster might include two stages of roasting. First, corn kernels, tamarind seeds, or other combinations of cardamom and soy, are well-grinded and added to coffee mixture. Next, for an extreme taste, Thai people use sugar and sometimes butter to caramelize the whole thing.

In Indonesia, coffee beans are traditionally roasted in one step, over a wok with butter and kernels to create sweetness depth to the after-flavor.

Different ways to enjoy coffee in Southeast Asia

In Western countries, fresh milk is a special ingredient to the whole coffee-thing. For Southeast Asian countries, not the fresh milk but condensed milk that lit everything. An inspiring suggestion whenever you come to a random café in Southeast Asia should be iced-and-(condensed)-milk because here, locals have been attached to this iced-coffee drink too much to the point of common reflex.

Laotian culture even impresses the sweet-tooth by extra spoon of syrup and sometimes, more cream to fulfill the coffee cup


Other nations as of Vietnam, egg coffee with puffed sugar egg yolk layered on top becomes a real thing in the streets. Fruit-scent, like coconut coffee in Vietnam, Thailand gets abundant attention, not in a bizarre but much satisfied, delicate and exciting endeavor.

Yogurt coffee seems odder, yet, its existence in Vietnamese culture has long been since the after-war period. Though, the sour and arduous milky touch is rare and tinted towards the basic flavors.

The time-being is a key leading to a pleasant successful cup of coffee. As noted above, coffee here is dark and solid, best time to enjoy street coffee might be during morning light. At this time, your body would totally be ready to consume large amount of awakening elements. To start a new day with a cup of coffee is Southeast Asia’s coffee culture.

Coffee shops in Southeast Asia


In contrast to the merchandise coffee suppliers as of Western culture, coffee in Southeast Asia varies to public, from mini stands at alley corner to family-friendly businesses around the town. In big cities such as Hanoi, Saigon, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap, Yangon, you can easily find this heavy liquid treat, really good and basic one from the streets with reasonable price. Coffee brand concept is a great choice if you rather stick to flat, easing-going and nostalgic flavors of latte, espresso, something extra Arabica.

By Le Doan


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