Travel Tips

Traveling to Southeast Asia: Your Ultimate Southeast Asia Coffee Guide

From small mini stands, hip cafes to motorcyclist vendors, coffee in Southeast Asia is presented in different forms yet they remain the same with their sweet, creamy and sometimes bitter taste to let you start your day or wake you up in a lazy afternoon. Who doesn’t like coffee? You might be craving for one both in the morning and afternoon when traveling to Southeast Asia. Like its amazing food, they have a diverse history, customs and traditions when it comes to coffee. Let’s take a look at the coffee culture in countries in Southeast Asia.  Here’s your ultimate Southeast Asia Coffee Guide:


The coffee production history behind Indonesia has been a long time. Started in the 1600s due to Dutch colonization in Indonesia, it played one of the most important roles of the country. As the third largest exporter of gourmet coffee in the world, coffee culture is deeply woven in the daily life for the Indonesians.  The morning of Indonesia will start with a cup of kopi tubruk, which is mud coffee, as a daily kick of caffeine. What makes kopi is that the traditional process of making a cup of mud coffee skips the filtering step, making it extra strong and flavorful. kopi comes without a doubt the most common form of coffee in Indonesia. The Indonesians traditionally roast their coffee beans in a wok with butter and kernels of corn, which gives it an extra sweetness to the coffee. 


The French colonization in Vietnam has greatly influences its culture which includes coffee. In Vietnam, it has developed its own coffee styles variations such as use of egg, fruits or yoghurt. In a coffee shop in Vietnam, you would epact your coffee with beaten raw egg in a form of think cream sitting on top of your drink, coming along with sugar and condensed milk. This is Vietnamese egg coffee (cà phê trứng). The history traces back in the 1900s when milk was rare and expensive in Vietnam during the war, and this is why the Vietnamese replace milk with beaten egg yolk. 


As a late comer of top coffee production in Asia, Thailand is known for its coffee production with robusta coffe around the world. Some might only drink coffee during day, yet for Thai people, coffee can be drunk at any time during the day. Popular known as Thai iced coffee, oliang is a typical drink for the hot weather in Thailand. This widely famous drink has a simple name, as the “o” stands for black and “liang” means iced or cold. Traditionally, after coffee is brewed with a tungdtom, which is a Thai coffee filter, and then served with condensed milk, evaporated milk or fresh milk. Chiang Mai, which is located in the northern part of the country, is famous for its cold brew coffee scene. With of coffee shops in this city and street vendors dishing out local Thai-style coffee, try a cup of oliang and have a taste of Thai culture.


The history of coffee in Laos started due to French colonization in twentieth century and it has been a main staple drink ever since. Till now, this crop is the largest agricultural export in the Southern part of Laos. Due to globalization and westernization, the western style coffee is now sprouting all over the country. It is said that Laotian coffee is rich in the romance of Laotian lifestyle. The main coffee beans are grown on Bolaven Plateau, where breath taking waterfalls and stunning mountain views can be found. In Laos, refining Arabica and classic Robusta coffee beans are grown with organic farming, which welcome travelers coming for a visit to enjoy a cup of fresh coffee with a view of waterfalls. The taste of coffee is quite similar to coffee. The way of having coffee in Laos is quite similar to Thailand, where people often drink it with sugar and sweet condensed milk with extra ices.  


The coffee industry in Malaysia is beginning to take off, and the number of cafes has been increasing. 

Especially in Kuala Lumpur, with its well-educated middle class, the coffee culture has been thriving in this Malaysia’s capital. The fine production is particularly emphasized and is now widely known in the world for its high quality. Introducing traditional Malaysian Ipoh white coffee, a popular coffee drink originating in IpohPerakMalaysia. Roasted with palm oil margarine then served with condensed milk, ipoh is sweet, rich, caramelly. A combination of sweetness and bitterness, it is definitely a national drink for the Malaysians. 


Singaporean coffee culture, like the country itself, is an example of East meets West. The long tradition of kopitiam, which is its coffee culture dates back centuries ago. Just as rich and diverse as Singapore is, kopi means coffee in Malay, and tiam means shop in Hokkien and Fujianese. The coffee is made from Robusta beans, containing a high amount of caffeine. In order to bring their flavor to another level, the beans are roasted with butter and sugar in a wok. This process would bring out the beans’ unique aroma. They will then be strained through a small clothing and mixed with condensed milk. If you order a kopi, you would expect coffee with condensed milk. If you want it without milk, you would say a kopi o. Visit a kopitiam and have it in a Singaporean way! 

known for its untouched nature, diverse culture, breath-taking beaches, Southeast Asia is said to be one of the popular destinations. So, if you plan on visiting Southeast Asia, remember to have a fine, nice cup of coffee for a unique, authentic taste of culture. 

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