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Coffee in South East Asia

Besides cooking, the writer is also a Barista with The Bulb Coffee, with 3 years experience as a Barista.

It’s amazing how the world begins to change through the eyes of a cup of coffee.

— Donna A. Favors

The South East Asian Coffee Culture

According to Pilot guides, South East Asia has been a grower and consumer of Coffee since the late seventeenth century.

There are 11 countries in this region and at least 3 of these countries produce coffee beans, with Vietnam being the biggest exporter where in 2017.

According to The Asean Post, Vietnam produced 29.5 million 60 kilogram (KG) bags of Coffee Beans.

Also, you can find the most expensive coffee bean in the world in this region, which is the "Kopi Luwak" found in the country of Indonesia.

Lets go on a Specialty coffee beverages expedition in South East Asia!

Where is South East Asia?

South East Asia is highlighted in red, just below China in the Asia Map

South East Asia is highlighted in red, just below China in the Asia Map

1) Vietnamese Egg Coffee

A Cup of Egg Coffee

A Cup of Egg Coffee


First on the list is Vietnamese Egg Coffee (In Vietnamese: cà phê trúng) which was created in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the year 1946 by Ngyuen Van Giang.

This special beverage was crafted during a time when there was a shortage of Milk after the French War or also known as, The First Indochina war.

Now, how did Giang invented this type of Coffee beverage? He made it with a recipe that features strong Robusta beans at the bottom layer and topped with a mixture of egg and sugar whisked until foamy which creates the "creamy" layer to the beverage.

These days, condensed milk is added to the mix to make it creamier and sweeter. This coffee beverage is found all over Vietnam where it is enjoyed by both the locals and tourists.

2) Vietnamese Drip Coffee

A Cup of Drip Coffee

A Cup of Drip Coffee


We stay with Vietnam for the next entry to this list, the Vietnamese Drip Coffee (In Vietnamese: cà phê đá) also known to be the traditional coffee beverage of Vietnam.

Vietnamese Drip Coffee is made with locally sourced Robusta beans and are usually medium coarse grounded, dark roast, Robusta beans and its prepared using the small traditional metal Vietnamese drip (picture above).

This drip method acts as a filter for the coffee grounds and when added with hot water, it slowly drips down to the cup.

It is packed with strong and intense flavor and its usually served like a long black or with sweetened condensed milk or with ice,

which makes it Vietnamese iced coffee. Similar to the Vietnamese Egg Coffee above, it is found anywhere throughout Vietnam.

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3) Malaysia Ipoh White Coffee

Ipoh White Coffee, both in Hot & Cold

Ipoh White Coffee, both in Hot & Cold


White Coffee, which is translated from the literal Chinese Cantonese term of "Pak Ko Pi". White coffee is known to be a traditional Malaysian favorite coffee beverage.

White Coffee was introduced in the 19th Century by Chinese immigrants who came to Malaya to work on the Tin Mines in a Malaysian state called Perak.

To remove any confusion, the coffee beans in White Coffee are not actually white but it is the use of evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk that makes it look whiter and creamier.

White coffee got its name from the creamy flavor of the beverage itself, as said above, it originated in Perak, Malaysia, which was known to be a big Tin mining land back in the days.

But to be specific, it originated from Ipoh, which is the capital city of Perak state.

Location of Perak in Malaysia

Location of Perak State in Malaysia.

Location of Perak State in Malaysia.

These days, the whole Malaysia loves this Coffee beverage, especially the locals of Ipoh, Perak, and every tourist who goes to Ipoh, puts this as a priority on their travelling list.

Suggestion: The best way to have the coffee is with a traditional Malaysian breakfast of Kaya Butter Toast with a side of Half Boiled egg or have an egg tart with it. That's how locals of Ipoh normally eat for breakfast.

4) Singapore "Kopitiam Kopi"

Singapore's Kopi

Singapore's Kopi


Singapore and Malaysia are like two brothers separated when they were young, hence, the coffee culture is very similar on both sides of the causeway (The bridge connecting Malaysia & Singapore).

Both countries have their versions of the "Kopitiam", which literally translates to a Coffee Shop.

Singapore too has their own version of the "Kopi" which literally translates into Coffee.

Its made with evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk similar to the White Coffee of Malaysia, however, Singapore "Kopi" has a stronger Coffee taste compared to its Malaysian counterpart due to the lesser use of both the condensed milk and evaporated milk.

Suggestion: Similar to Malaysia, the best way to have a cup of "Kopi" is to have it with a plate of kaya and butter toast together with a side of half boiled egg. Now that's a breakfast.

5) "Oliang" Thailand Iced Coffee

A Cup of "Oliang"

A Cup of "Oliang"


Thai iced coffee can be found in most parts of Thailand, its name in Thai is "Oliang" which is a mix of words from the Chinese Teowchew dialect, which is spoken by Thai Chinese.

Its a composition of two words which are "O" which means Black and "Liang" which means cold, hence, giving birth to the Thai Iced Coffee.

In traditional manner, Thai iced coffee is made using a so-called "Tungtom" which is a filter made with muslin bag and attached to a metal ring with a handle.

Thai iced coffee is typically served black or with condensed milk/fresh milk. In some places, a simple sugar syrup is served alongside as a taste enhancer.

Suggestion: The best "Oliang" is found on the roadside stalls throughout Thailand, there you can get the authentic taste of Thai Iced Coffee.

6) Cambodian Iced Coffee

Cambodian Iced Coffee

Cambodian Iced Coffee


Similar to its Thai counterpart, Cambodian iced coffee is also found around the country of Cambodia. Known as gah-fay dteuk-gork (Iced Coffee in Khmer).

It is typically sold in plastic bags or plastic cups and it is often seen on motorcyclist's handle bars.

Cambodian coffee beans are normally sourced from the neighboring Vietnam and are typically slow roasted in vegetable fat which gives it the strong flavor and aroma of the beans in the beverage.

Cambodian Iced Coffee is typically served with condensed milk and into a plastic cup, something you can get on the go.

7) Philippines Coffee Jelly

A Cup of Coffee Jelly

A Cup of Coffee Jelly


The love of Coffee in the Philippines gave birth to the Coffee Jelly and it is commonly known to be a desert rather than a beverage.

Coffee Jelly in Philippines is mostly inspired from the Japanese Coffee Jelly recipe, however, rather than serving it by itself, the Filipino version contains table cream and condensed milk served in one serving.

Here's a link to a Coffee Jelly recipe as this can be made at home even by using instant coffee powder.

  • Coffee Jelly - kawaling pinoy
    Coffee Jelly with coffee-flavored gelatin generously drizzled with sweetened cream for a simple yet impressive dessert everyone is sure to love!

8) Indonesian Kopi Luwak

Luwak Coffee on sale in Indonesia

Luwak Coffee on sale in Indonesia


Last but not least, the most expensive coffee in the world as of this article being published, the "Kopi Luwak" ,also known as Civet cat Coffee.

This is the coffee staple of Indonesia, where the reason for its high price is because of the unconditional way of producing this type of coffee.

The method of producing this type of coffee bean is through the raw coffee beans that have been digested by the Civet Cat and will be processed into coffee beans.

One pound of this coffee can cost around $100 to $500 (Data from 2010). Even some specialty coffee shops sell a cup of Kopi Luwak for $35-80.

© 2020 Nigel Koay


Nigel Koay (author) from Malaysia on October 20, 2020:

Hey Amy, thank you, will look to come up with more coffee related articles in the future. Thanks for your support.

Amy on October 12, 2020:

Thanks for sharing such an interesting article. Enjoyed reading it!

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