It's no secret that tourists flock to Southeast Asia from all over the world for its unique traditions, mouthwatering cuisine, and incredible coffee culture.

There's a hot debate going on, though: is Vietnamese or Thai coffee better?

Some people might not even notice the difference between the two (definitely not talking about myself a few years back, here…)!

If that’s you, or you simply want to know if Thai or Vietnamese iced coffee is “better,” don’t go anywhere because I’m about to cover it all!

  • Vietnamese coffee is noticeably sweeter and Thai coffee tastes more "earthy" with cardamom and spices.
  • Both Thai and Vietnamese coffee is made with Robusta coffee beans which are more caffeinated and bitter.
  • Thai coffee is usually brewed with a brewing cloth and metal ring. Vietnamese coffee is made using a "phin filter." 

Vietnamese Vs Thai Coffee - What Are The Real Differences?

At first glance, Thai coffee vs Vietnamese coffee may seem quite similar. However, there are some subtle yet important differences that make them both very different drinks.

Flavor Profile

Both Vietnamese and Thai coffee are prepared to create a unique and flavorful coffee.

Vietnamese iced coffee is known for being notably sweeter and smoother than the bold and intricately-flavored Thai iced coffee.

This is largely due to the inclusion of sweetened condensed milk in Vietnamese coffee.

In contrast, Thai coffee has a slightly more "earthy" flavor with cardamom and other spices.

If you'd like to add cream and brown sugar, it becomes even more complex.

Type Of Coffee Beans

Arabica coffee beans don’t grow as well as robusta coffee beans in Southeast Asia, which is why both Vietnamese coffee and Thai coffee drinks feature the latter.

Robusta coffee beans have a more bitter aftertaste and are full-bodied and more intense than Arabica beans.

While the beans are the same, the taste difference comes in coffee production and roasting.

Thai coffees tend to use light to medium roast beans, and Vietnamese coffees tend to use a darker roast.

Brewing Methods

With the inclusion of spices, it's crucial that Thai iced coffee is made with ground coffee beans.

Using a coffee sock drip filter attached to a metal ring, the coffee grounds and spices are placed in the filter, and hot water is poured over it.

The coffee will drip through the bag into your cup, taking around 4 to 5 minutes to finish.

Vietnamese coffee is made with a drip filter called a "phin filter." This is a metal filter, much like what you'd see in a pour-over.

Simply add your ground coffee into the filter, pour hot water over it, and the coffee will drip through and into the container below.

Which One Is Sweeter?

Vietnamese coffee is generally sweeter than Thai coffee, as it only uses sweetened condensed milk for its “sweetener.”

Thai coffee uses a combo of both sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, which reduces the sweetness level of the coffee drink.

Caffeine Kick

You may be wondering about the caffeine content of Thai coffee vs Vietnamese coffee. I did, too! I need to know just how many of these things I need to drink to hit my baseline energy level!

How much caffeine is in your coffee will depend on how it is prepared. Most cafes use robusta beans to make both Thai and Vietnamese coffee.

Some cafes make their Vietnamese coffee with arabica beans or a combination of arabica and robusta.

Robusta beans do have more caffeine, so in that sense, you could say Thai iced coffee has more caffeine. However, both are almost always made with robusta, so this isn't normally the case.

I truly feel more energy when I drink Vietnamese iced coffee. I have a feeling that this has to do with there being more coffee per volume.

For example, if I order a 16-ounce Thai coffee vs Vietnamese coffee, there’s going to be more milk in the Thai coffee.

The Vietnamese coffee is going to have less milk, which means more coffee, which equates to more caffeine.

Health Benefits

Regular black coffee is packed with health benefits, including a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.[1]

A cup of black iced coffee is just 5 calories. However, when you add milk and sugar, the calorie content obviously increases.

Thai iced coffee has fewer calories than its Vietnamese counterpart due to its primary difference: the inclusion/quantity of sweetened condensed milk used.

As Vietnamese iced coffee uses more of the calorie-dense ingredient, the delicious drink is going to have more calories and sugar.

You can, of course, make it "healthier" by using less milk and sugar and letting the natural coffee flavors come through more.


What Exactly Is Thai Coffee? (Learn How To Make It!)

Thai coffee is coffee originating from Thailand! There are actually different types of Thai coffee.

Oliang is made with robusta beans and sugar, Yok Lor Oliang is coffee, sugar, and evaporated milk, and Kopi is coffee and condensed milk.

At least for most of us, we know Thai coffee as "Thai iced coffee." Thai iced coffee is made in a pot called a "cafetiere," which uses a muslin filter called a "tungdtom."

With robusta beans, this brew is very strong, full of flavor, and perhaps a tiny bit bitter.

Traditional Thai iced coffee also includes sesame seeds and cardamom. You'll then have it served with evaporated milk, condensed milk, or regular milk and sugar.

What You’ll Need

  • Robusta beans
  • Sock drip filter/tungdtom filter
  • Condensed milk, evaporated milk, or plain milk
  • Optional brown sugar

How To Make It

To make a delicious Thai iced coffee, ensure you have high-quality ingredients first.

  1. Take the special filter and place around 3 tbsp of the coffee grounds inside.
  2. Place the container of your choice underneath (ideally, a coffee mug).
  3. Pour hot water inside the bag over the (ground) roasted coffee beans.
  4. After coffee is completely brewed (approximately 5 minutes or until dripping stops), pour over ice.
  5. Add secondary ingredients, like condensed milk and fresh milk.
  6. Enjoy your Thai iced coffee!

What Exactly Is Vietnamese Coffee? (Simple At-Home Recipe)

Vietnamese coffee is coffee originating from Vietnam. There are actually different types of Vietnamese coffee.

They make yogurt coffee, egg coffee, and then you have Vietnamese iced coffee, which is ultra popular.

As most people seem to be referring to the latter when talking about Vietnamese coffee, I will cover how to make it.

Vietnamese iced coffee is cold and made with sweetened condensed milk over crushed or cubed ice.

Many coffee drinkers prefer crushed ice as it has that perfect chewy consistency, though it does tend to melt quicker.

The use of sweetened condensed milk is said to go back to the country's French colonial era, where "French invaders" subbed it for regular milk, as regular milk was hard to come by during this time.[2]

What You’ll Need

  • Robusta beans (dark roast coffee)
  • Phin filter
  • Condensed milk

How To Make It

Making Vietnamese coffee is also quite simple and straightforward, even for complete beginners.

  1. Take your filter and add about 3 tbsp. of ground coffee inside.
  2. Pour 1 to 3 tbsp. of condensed milk, depending on personal preferences. If you like it sweeter, you’ll add closer to 3 tbsp.
  3. Pour boiling water into the filter, letting coffee bloom for 5 seconds, releasing CO2.
  4. Press on the filter to compress bloomed coffee, making for a more rich flavor.
  5. Pour the rest of the water into the filter, and wait around 5 minutes for the dripping to stop.
  6. Once the brewing process has wrapped up, stir the coffee and condensed milk together and pour over ice.
  7. Enjoy your Vietnamese iced coffee!

Common Thai and Vietnamese Coffee Questions

What’s the difference between Thai coffee and regular coffee?

The main difference between Thai coffee and regular coffee is that Thai iced coffee is made with other additives. Vietnam tradition occasionally calls for corn, soybeans, cardamom, sesame seeds, and rice in their recipes, in addition to coffee. However, the most common way you'll see Thai iced coffee with fewer "unusual ingredients" is just coffee and condensed milk, fresh milk, and sugar.

What’s the difference between Vietnamese coffee and regular coffee?

Vietnamese coffee is brewed with a special coffee filter, creating a strong and thick coffee with a very bold flavor. It also includes condensed milk to tame the bitter flavor a bit, which makes a sweet coffee that is perfect on hot summer days.

What is Thai coffee called?

Thai coffee is known as “oliang” (often spelled “oleang” and “olieng”). This Thai coffee beverage is made with robusta coffee, brown sugar, and an interesting mixture of cardamom, corn, and rice.

What Is Hanoi egg coffee?

Hanoi egg coffee is a specialty coffee that you can find in nearly every coffee shop across Vietnam. It's made with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and robusta coffee. Avid coffee lovers must try this one at least once!


Summary

Vietnamese iced coffee and Thai iced coffee are two of the most popular beverages in Southeast Asian countries.

The two coffees have plenty of similarities, but there are also different methods and ingredients used. I highly recommend trying both and perhaps finding a new favorite coffee!

References:

  1. https://www.touchendocrinology.com/diabetes/journal-articles/the-emerging-health-benefits-of-coffee-with-an-emphasis-on-type-2-diabetes-and-cardiovascular-disease/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Indochina

ShayAnne Weeks

Author

ShayAnne Weeks
Shay is a fun-loving content writer and DJ who enjoys traveling the world whenever, wherever possible. The lifeblood that makes it all attainable has always been a strong cup (or 3) of coffee.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... A Café Cubano con Leche

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