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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Saigon Coffee Houses

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

It is a little known fact that coffee helped transform the economy of Vietnam.

Billy with a coffee "em" or worker

The Vietnam war ended in 1975 and the country was on its economic knees. Soviet copied financial policies did nothing to help and collectivizing agriculture proved to be a disaster.

A Ca Phe shop named after a coffee plateau in Vietnam

In 1986 the Communist Party took a chance, bet on coffee and allowed privatization to enter the marketplace. The Vietnamese economy was transformed.

In 1994, 60% of Vietnamese lived under the poverty line. Due to the production and sale of coffee, now about 10% do.

World wide coffee name

During this change in economic focus, many new companies involved in coffee production were established including Trung Nguyen in 1996 and Highlands Coffee in 1998. Both of these became major coffee brands in the country simply through their widespread coffee shop network.

By the late 1990s, Vietnam had become the world's #2 coffee producer after Brazil.

 

Most Vietnamese drink tea, but more and more are drinking coffee

Vietnamese culture also emphasizes tea drinking. This shop had a beautiful display of tea bins and lots of choices.

Large jars of tea including tea balls in the last jar

This shop sold tea by the gram, in bags, boxes or wrapped in balls. Coffee was in bins also, ready to be freshly ground.

Coffee production in Vietnam is largely focused on Robusta beans for export. Due to their bitterness, Robusta is considered by many to be inferior to Arabica beans.

Iced Latte, great on a hot afternoon

In order to improve the quality of coffee exports and to bolster sales, the government has encouraged more widespread planting of Arabica beans and the development of mixed-bean coffees.

On the search for the perfect coffee

Coffee shops are everywhere in Saigon. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours, walking around town, looking for the perfect coffee, then trying it in different shops.

Trung Nguyen the #1 coffee house

This coffee chain is a combination of private enterprise and government involvement. You will find this coffee house all over the world in capital cities such as New York, Berlin, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Moscow, Seoul, Shanghai, Dubai, and Singapore.

Vietnamese style drip coffee with blueberry cheesecake

The Vietnamese typically brew their coffee in single servings with a filter known as a phin. Usually the coffee is served tableside while it is still brewing. We are told to wait "7 minutes" or "3 more minutes" when they serve it to us.

The anticipation is part of the experience

If you touch the metal brewing apparatus when it is still working you will have a shock. It is VERY hot! One must wait patiently for the hot water to seep through the filter and into the cup below.

The use of sweetened condensed milk was first used in Vietnamese brewed coffees because it was easier storage in a tropical climate. Of course this sweetens the coffee and after long practice of doing it this way led to the taste preference in this country.

Finally ready!

When the water has finally passed through the filter and into the cup below, you may take the phin off your cup and pour it over ice. Some prefer to drink it black, but we have ours with the condensed milk for the full experience. Coffee served over ice is called ca phe da. With condensed milk over ice it is called ca phe sua da.

Part of the fun of drinking Vietnamese ca phe sua da is the seemingly long wait for the brewing, then pouring it over the ice yourself. Some prefer to mix the condensed milk into the hot coffee before pouring. Others simply pour the whole mixture over ice.

The lid to the phin which you see here with the little handle is used as a "drip catch" and is placed under the filter when you are finished. This prevents coffee dripping over the table.

Silly us!

When this photo was taken, we were still learning the ins and outs of this process and found the "drip catch" after making a mess.

Weasel coffee is controversial

One day while sitting in Ben Thanh Market drinking a coconut juice  we noticed the odd name of "Weasel coffee."  We knew about Robusta beans and Arabica beans, but what was with this "Weasel stuff?"

Weasel coffee, or Kopi luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Authentic civet "cat coffee" sells for between $100USD and $3,000USD per kilogram. Authentic civet coffee is made by collecting coffee beans eaten by wild civets, a weasel/cat-like animal who eats fresh coffee berries and excretes them after the beans have gone through his digestive system.

This process is said to change the proteins and amino acids in the beans, affecting the flavor.

Some coffee tasters known as cuppers say that the coffee tastes stale and thin, but others claim it's the best coffee in the world. Most customers are Asian especially those originating from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Some specialty coffee shops sell cups of brewed Kopi luwak for $35-$80USD.

Faux weasel coffee can be found more commonly and is probably what is pictured in this photo. The prices for this cat coffee is between $20USD-$35USD per kilogram.

Civet or weasel coffee on a menu

Sang Tao 8 on this menu is the famous civet or weasel coffee but without the weasel. Trung Nguyen claims their enzyme treatment process produces the flavor of the kopi luwak without any involvement of the weasel whatsoever. So... if you want to try out the coffee without the controversy, here's your chance.

One must have priorities

The name "My Life Coffee" says it all. People are parked outside and packed inside for some of this country's tasty brewed coffee.

Wired in more ways than one

All coffee shops have complimentary WiFi. It is safe to say that everyone here has a digital device of some sort. Often you will see people studying for school, conducting business or keeping in touch on their devices socially.

Coffee house menu

Many coffee houses serve up more than just coffee. Here you can get meals, snacks, juices, teas and blended drinks.

Phin-less fun!

Our "em" brought us our ca phe sua da already brewed and poured. Now one simply works the ice to blend the coldness through the drink and as the ice melts, the taste of the coffee mixture changes. Every sip is a new experience!

 

Blended drinks

These are examples of blended yogurt and "jelly" drinks. The jelly is like a Jell-o that melts in your mouth. The green drink here is probably avocado and orange juice. Delicious!

White chocolate cheese cake and coffee

These coffee drinks are actually a fancy version of the Vietnamese ca phe sua da but of course, since they are fancy, we paid more!

Still looking for that perfect cup of brew.

Starbucks has a presence also

Even with all the Vietnamese specialty coffee shops and family style shops, Starbucks has a presence here also. Entering Vietnam in early 2013 Starbucks had its first coffee store open in Ho Chih Minh City.

These beans from Columbia cost almost $38USD a kilogram! That's $18USD a pound!

Yikes!

Street side ca phe

Vietnamese coffee is made from Robusta beans which are a little more bitter than Arabica. Robusta has between 1.6% to 2.7% caffeine and packs a punch!

This ca phe sua da was served with the condensed milk on the bottom giving a layered effect.

Yummy!

Prices in VNDong per 100 grams

Coffee has been banned several times throughout history in cities and countries such as Mecca, Italy, Constantinople, Sweden and Prussia. Thought to be a threat to the beer drinking industry, the creator of radical ideas, the emasculation of men and labeled Satanic by some churches, people have been forbidden to drink coffee off and on throughout the centuries - Sometimes under the pain of death!

Because coffee can give the sensation of being sober even after drinking liquor "giving men the opportunity to drink even more," women "languishing in extremity of want" for sex petitioned to have coffee censured from society. Or at least from all persons under the age of 60.

Nasty, delicious, society-threatening stuff, this is!

Coffee, coffee everywhere

But apparently, coffee drinkers have won the battle and have emerged victorious. Sitting together, sharing their lives and their ideas at a coffee shop has become a favorite pastime everywhere.

Tee shirt with Starbucks brand knock-off

Here you see a tee shirt with a Vietnamese cone hat called a non la on the girl in the center. Ca phe sua da is of course, the Vietnamese coffee with milk and ice.

Specialty jelly coffee

We had to sneak this photo of the wonderful hazelnut jelly coffee at Highlands Coffee Shop. Photos were forbidden for reasons that were unclear, except that people do a lot of business in coffee shops and perhaps those transactions were to remain private.

This is the famed jelly coffee which was like a milkshake in the center, jelly squares on the sides and bottom, and real whipped cream and chocolate on top.

Devilishly delicious! But more like a dessert than a cup of coffee.

With all its popularity in one form or another, hopefully coffee drinking is here to stay.

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About the Authors
 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Billy and Akaisha continue to journal and photograph their world travels.

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