The Rise of Salt Coffee: A Popular Vietnamese Beverage Trend

The trend of customizing Starbucks orders to taste like Vietnamese iced coffee, including the popular salt coffee or ca phe muoi, has gained popularity on social media platforms like TikTok. The invention of salt coffee is credited to a small café in Hue, Vietnam, called Ca Phe Muoi. The drink is made by adding sweetened condensed milk to Vietnamese coffee and topping it with salted cream. The unique combination of flavors balances the bitterness of the coffee and the sweetness of the condensed milk.

The name “Ca Phe Muoi” translates to “salt coffee” in Vietnamese, chosen to attract customers who were accustomed to drinking black coffee with sugar or condensed milk. The strategy proved successful, and salt coffee quickly became a specialty drink representing historic Hue. The trend has now spread across Vietnam, with cafes in various cities serving salt coffee.

Vietnam, known for its robusta coffee beans, is the world’s second-largest exporter of coffee after Brazil. The country’s coffee exports have seen a significant increase, reaching $2.9 billion in the first five months of this year. Salt coffee’s popularity is not surprising, considering the deep-rooted coffee culture in Vietnam, where coffee outlets range from small sidewalk counters to modern cafes with on-site roasters.

Salt coffee is just one of several distinctive Vietnamese coffee drinks. Other popular options include egg coffee (ca phe trung), coconut coffee (ca phe cot dua), fruit shake coffee (sinh to ca phe), and yogurt coffee (sua chua ca phe). These unique flavors have attracted global interest, with consumers outside Asia expressing a growing curiosity in Asian-inspired coffee experiences.

The interest in Vietnamese coffee has also extended to the United States, where cafes like 7 Leaves Café and independent Vietnamese coffee shops have gained popularity. Even Starbucks branches in Vietnam have joined the salt coffee trend, introducing their own version of ca phe muoi.

The founders of Ca Phe Muoi, Ho Thi Thanh Huong and Tran Nguyen Huu Phong, express their joy and pride in creating a drink loved by many and considered a specialty of Hue. The couple now operates a second, larger branch of Ca Phe Muoi near the ancient Hue Imperial City.

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