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Vietnam ~ Coffee Capital of Asia

May 25, 2011

Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer of coffee beans,  after Brazil. Robusta beans account for the vast majority of beans produced in Vietnam,  although the production of higher quality Arabica beans is on the rise.  Since 2000, the country’s obtain a notorious reputation for driving  down world coffee prices by flooding the market with inferior beans.  These inferior beans get combined with higher quality beans before finding their way onto supermarket shelves.

Okay, so I knew going into Vietnam there would be an abundance coffee but that very little would be worth bringing home.  What I wasn’t expecting to find was the Vietnamese equivalent of arguably the most sought after and expensive coffee in the world,  Kopi Luwak.  Weasel coffee or Ca Phe Chon is the name given to a select number of coffee beans that have been lucky enough to pass through the digestive tract of a Vietnamese civet cat.  At a $120 a pound its undoubtedly the worlds most expensive poop.

Now to those of you who have  never travelled to Vietnam, I envy your intelligence, but you should know that things (all things) in Vietnam are cheap and I mean really cheap.  If the Vietnamese actualy had a code of ethics you would feel like your were stealing.  Bargaining is the name of the game and it’s the difference between paying one fifth (if you don’t) and one tenth (if you do) of what you pay at home.

Regular readers of this blog know that we Turnbulls like to roast our own green coffee beans, believing this ensures the most flavourful cup of coffee. And, what the hell else are we to do with all our spare time!  So, after spending our first night in Hanoi we set out bright and early on a weasel hunting expedition, instead of a rifle we armed ourselves with a 10mm lens for blog photos and a fist full of Vietnamese dong (about forty bucks) for our trophy. 

Finding a coffee shop in Hanoi is about as difficult as finding a Tim Hortons in Orillia, there’s at least one on every block.  Finding the green beans you want is another story.  “Do you have any green weasel beans?” I would ask the shop owner.  Recognizing the word weasel  the shop keeper would immediately reach for a burlap sack or large plastic tub containing some very oily over roasted beans, insisting that you smell them.  After taking a whiff of the beans we would kindly say no thanks to the dejected shop keeper,  dumbfounded that we could resist the aroma and not just hand over our cash.  We must have entered a half-dozen shops before finding one that actually had green beans on display.  Finally we had our prey in sight. 

Insisting that we try the weasel coffee before purchasing, the shop owner’s daughter set about preparing a cup.  The girl opened the fridge and reached for a water bottle containing what we could only assume was some very concentrated cold brewed coffee, which she diluted with hot water before serving.  The pungent earthiness was immediately unique even though the dark roast flavour tried to obscure any other notes.  We tried other coffee too, each from its own separate water bottle, but none as memorable as the weasel.  In the end we purchased two kilos for $17.50 each, a dollar off the asking price, which is not much but it’s kinda like bargaining at the Goodwill. It was already $265 dollars cheaper than you would pay in Toronto.  We also picked up a couple of individual metal coffee filters, these are nifty little gadgets that produce the strong little coffees found at most restaurants and cafés throughout the country.

After spending three weeks in Vietnam we returned to Hanoi before flying home to Canada.  Not knowing whether or not we’d ever return, we stocked up on weasel, grabbing another four kilos.  Upon arriving home we quickly set about researching the weasel coffee and how we might be able to get some beans shipped to Ontario.  We found a lot of conflicting info online about weasel coffee and were surprised to find out that certain companies in the U.S. and Vietnam are producing weasel beans using a synthetic process which mimics the enzymatic action of the  civet.  Some reports state, this coffee is indistinguishable from the real thing and most beans sold as weasel in Vietnam are not real.  Whether or not green beans are more likely to be authentic, we’ll probably never know.

I’m going to sum up this post with two final thoughts. In an ode to Andrew Zimmern ” IF IT TASTES GOOD DRINK IT.”  And secondly just think if dog shit was this expensive we’d all be millionaires!…..useless dogs.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2011 1:34 pm

    Vietnam coffee is awesome – actually Vietnamese coffee that is drank in Vietnam…

  2. jsherman665 permalink
    June 2, 2011 2:22 pm

    Try some of the Vietnamese roasted coffee from this site, http://www.bluecloudcoffee.com. Get the Blue Cloud FIRE ROASTED. You will be impressed!!

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