If you’re a coffee-shop frequenter, you might have wondered what the difference between Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee is. Maybe you’ve been out for a Vietnamese coffee and spied a Thai coffee house around the corner and gotten curious. If they’re from different places, surely they must be different? Right? Well, you can rest assured knowing that they are! In this article, I’ll be covering all the differences and similarities between these two beverages – from how and what they’re made of to their ease of access and availability.
It should be noted that this article is referring strictly to iced coffees, not iced lattes.
All coffee that is commercially available for drinking is native to the Ethiopian plateau, but now has a place in cultures all over the world – as well as a long and storied history. Before proper trading routes and easy importation methods were set in place, coffee was not readily available. This is because coffee plants can only grow in a specific climate – the collection of places where coffee is able to grow is known as the coffee belt.
What Is Thai Iced Coffee Made Of?
You can make Thai iced coffee – known as ‘gafae yen‘ – with a pre-packaged powder called oliang powder! The name ‘oliang‘ (กาแฟเย็น in Thai) is made up of two words, – the ‘o’ meaning black, and ‘liang’ meaning cold, with etymology tracing to the Teochew dialect.
There are lots of different brands of oliang, but they generally all consist of ground coffee beans, soya beans, and corn. Gafae yen is traditionally brewed with a coffee filter called a ‘tungdtom’. After brewing, it is served in an ice-filled glass with condensed, evaporated or regular milk depending on the drinker’s tastes. You can also enjoy gafae yen with a little simple syrup, cardamom, or some sesame seeds! The brew is rich and dark, with a little more color than a coffee made with just coffee beans.
What Is Vietnamese Iced Coffee Made Of?
This coffee – called ‘cà phê đá‘ in Vietnamese – is a dark roast coffee brewed with Vietnamese coffee beans in a traditional ‘phin‘ coffee filter. It can be enjoyed both hot and cold, and after brewing, you would usually add some condensed milk to it! A popular variation on Vietnamese iced coffee is coffee with condensed coconut milk – this is an excellent option for dairy-free drinkers.
Is Thai Iced Coffee The Same As Vietnamese Iced Coffee?
Besides having different cultural origins, Thai and Vietnamese iced coffee have two major differences – the way that they are brewed, and their ingredients.
Thai gafae yen has soybeans and corn added to it, whereas Vietnamese coffee may only have chicory added to the brew. Cà phê đá is brewed via a drip filter called a phin that uses a similar method to a French press or a pour-over. This differs from Thai coffee as this beverage is brewed using a filter that resembles a coffee sock.
Despite these differences, Thai iced coffee and Vietnamese iced coffee a notable overlap in strength, serving, and taste.
What’s Different About Vietnamese Iced Coffee: Taste And Otherwise
The only major difference (aside from brewing method) a Vietnamese iced coffee has from a Thai iced coffee is in taste – as the blend does not have anything added to it for the most part, it will taste more like other coffees you might have had than Thai coffee. It’s also more common for Vietnamese iced coffee to be made with condensed milk than it is for Thai coffee, meaning most Vietnamese iced coffees you can find out in the wild will be sweeter.
Where Can I Get Thai Or Vietnamese Coffee?
The easiest way to get Thai or Vietnamese coffee shops is to look for any near you! Search for local coffee shops by looking up ‘Thai/Vietnamese iced coffee near me’.
Don’t live in a big city? Not a problem! If there aren’t any coffee places readily available… Make them yourself! You’re likely to have at least one pan-Asian grocery store in your town, and if not you can always buy supplies online! I’ve made a list of different brands and words you can look out for when trying to find the right coffees – and some video-guided recipes to follow!
Finding Thai Coffee
Look out for these brands and terms to find Thai coffee:
- Pantai Thai Oliang Coffee
- ChaTraMue Thai Mixed Coffee
- Thai coffee powder
- Thai instant coffee
- Oliang powder mixed
- 3 in 1 thai coffee mix
- ‘Ka fae yen’, ‘gafae yen’ or ‘cafe gu cua thai lan’
Finding Vietnamese Coffee
Look out for these brands and terms to find Vietnamese coffee:
- Trung Nguyên
- Cafe Du Monde with Chicory
- Vietnamese Dep Lam
- Vietnamese Robusta
- ‘Cà phê đá’ or ‘cà phê sữa đá’
Thai And Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipes
How To Make Thai Iced Coffee
In this video, professional chef Pailin Chongchitnant of Hot Thai Kitchen shows us how to brew a traditional Thai iced coffee using oliang powder. She also mentions the difference between gafae yen and other types of thai coffee.
How To Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee
In this video founder of Nguyên Coffee Supply, Sahra Nguyên demonstrates how to use the phin method to brew different types of Vietnamese coffee – the first being hot! She also walks us through how to make iced coffee and coconut coffee of course.
If you’re curious about other Vietnamese coffee variations, Youtube channel Emmymade has a video on Vietnamese egg coffee.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any nutrition information on Thai iced coffee vs Vietnamese iced coffee. Luckily though, I did manage to find the nutritional information for the most popular oliang powder in America!
|Nutrients||Thai-style oliang powder by Pantai Norasingh|
|Calcium, Ca||167 mg|
|Iron, Fe||15 mg|
|Total Fats||0 g|
Thai Iced Coffee vs Vietnamese Iced Coffee: The Difference Explained
The main difference between Thai iced coffee and Vietnamese iced coffee is the ingredients that make them up and the tastes of the final products. Thai coffee is made with a blend of coffee beans, soybeans, and corn, sometimes having sesame seeds or cardamom added. Commercially, it’s usually served with regular milk, but condensed and evaporated milk – as well as a little salt n’ sugar – is not unheard of. Vietnamese coffee differs from this in a few major ways; it’s brewed in a phin using dark-roast Vietnamese coffee beans. It’s usually served with condensed milk or condensed coconut milk.
I sincerely hope that this article has helped clear up any confusion on these two wonderful beverages. But, now that you’re here, why not get out there and try these different coffees so you can decide which one you like best!
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