Blog: Coals to Newcastle, coffee to 'Nam

Catherine Sleep | 8 September 2005

I was amused to see that Singapore-listed Food Empire Holdings is launching pre-mixed cappuccino sachets into, of all places, Vietnam. Maybe you have to work in the food industry to know this, but coffee is Vietnam’s second most important agricultural product, and Vietnam is among the world’s top five producers of coffee (source: USDA FAS) But believe me, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find a decent cup of coffee there.

Maybe things have improved in the last couple of years, but I spent a fair bit of time in Vietnam between 1995 and 2000 and, believe me, the coffee was heinous. I wouldn’t wish to be patronising, but honestly, if you managed to procure a cup at all, it was generally a pre-mixed sachet full of instant ‘coffee’, milk powder and sugar. This was particularly revolting if you don’t normally take sugar in your coffee. I’m not sure that Food Empire launching its MacCoffee Cappuccino Classic into Vietnam will alter affairs dramatically, but hey, at least it means people are talking about coffee and, one presumes, drinking it.

The problem with decent coffee having become so widely available in the UK is that I’m now not happy to drink anything else. But then, you have to work quite hard to find a rubbish cup of coffee here now, which is essentially A Good Thing. Eventually Vietnam will doubtless go the same way. Shame there’s going to be such a lot of dreadful coffee consumed along the way.

MacCoffee in Vietnam


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