When traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia, I noticed that the coffee had a very different taste, compared to anything I've had in the U.S.. I'm talking about black coffee, not Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. It's hard to describe the difference; it seemed a little bitter or sour.

What accounts for this different taste? Is it arabica vs robusta? Or just a local difference in the beans?

  • Possible duplicate of What are the basic parameters that affect the flavor?
    – Geo
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:16
  • Can you provide more detail about the coffee? For example, was it "light" (pale, translucent) or "dark" (dense, opaque)? Geo's link illustrates a battery of parameters; for example: bitter can come from over-extraction or darker beans, sour can come from under-extraction or lighter beans... and the two tastes are fundamentally different! My best guess is that the style was something like French press or drip made with a metal filter. This page calls this variety "cà phê đen".
    – hoc_age
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 0:43
  • @hoc_age: Usually on the darker side. But I've had a variety of styles at home: light/dark, french-press/drip/espresso, etc., and this seemed like a fundamentally different taste. Your link and this one make me think it might have been a combination of factors rather than just one.
    – JW.
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 1:05

3 Answers 3


"Robusta coffee accounts for 97 per cent of Vietnam's total output" - Wikipedia

It's very likely you were drinking local pure robusta coffee. Among other things, the increased caffeine content makes it more bitter. But, robusta flavor is also generally considered inferior to arabica.

  • I agree to Chris' point. Very probably it's pure Robusta. In the rest of the world we hardly encounter pure Robusta. Any blend is generally use Arabica for aroma and the rest of the bag is filled up with Robusta.
    – MTSan
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:13
  • There are fantastic Vietnamese coffees ... Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 7:56

I'm pretty sure the coffee you were drinking was a mix of coffee and chicory.

I had a lot of it in Vietnam when I was there.

Coffee Chicory Blend.

  • When you give a link like that, please do annotate with what the link is: e.g., a coffee-chicory blend. Welcome to Coffee!
    – hoc_age
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 2:38

In Vietnam about six types of coffee blends are available, it is a coffee producing country.

One of them is an Arabica coffee, usually served in restaurants and sold at the open markets on the street. If you ask for Arabica, you will get this variant. It does take some communication skills using your hands and feet to make it clear to market salesmen. In Vietnam only the young and the elite speak English. You should be able to buy a drip filter:

enter image description here You don't use tap water in Vietnam, not even for brushing your teeth. So you also need bottled water to make coffee.

The other five are local products. Some of them are said to taste like chicory. Anyway they have a bad taste if you're not used to them. But they are really not chicory, they are blends from indigenous coffees like Arabica SE, Chari (a type of Liberica), Catimor. Also Arabica and Robusta are produced in Vietnam.

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