Buying coffee beans in Vietnam. What we learned.

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What we learned about buying Vietnamese coffee on our recent trip to Hanoi. Two things stand out. Drinking coffee in cafes in an important part of everyday life in Hanoi and the coffee served in these cafes is fabulous. So, many foreigners seek to buy coffee beans to take home with them.

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A Hanoi coffee shop near our hotel in the old quarter

The whole market for coffee beans seems infused with infatuation over coffee beans processed in the guts of civet cats or weasels. This is called “alamid” in the Philippines. The world production of civet coffee must be minuscule, but the marketing and sale of it is big business. It’s a buyer beware situation.

Hang Buom Street coffee merchant

Hang Buom Street coffee merchant

The "Perfect Weasel" beans we bought

The “Perfect Weasel” beans we bought

Tasting brewed coffee from coffee beans we were considering buying

Tasting brewed coffee from coffee beans we were considering buying


Coffee bean price list.  Tam Loc Coffee, 103 Hang Buom. August 2014

Coffee bean price list. Tam Loc Coffee, 103 Hang Buom. August 2014.  $1 = about 21,000 Vietnamese dong.

There are several coffee merchants on Hang Buom in the old quarter of Hanoi. We bought coffee from Kim Lai (99 Hang Buom) and from Tam Loc Cafe at 103 Hang Buom. The Kim Lai traditional (non-“weasel”) was 400,000 per 500 grams. We bought more coffee beans from Tam Loc. We liked Tam Loc because they would grind and brew you cups of coffee from the beans you were considering. We ended up buying “Perfect Weasel”, not because it was weasel, but because it tasted the best when brewed. We tried to like some of the less expensive beans such as those from Da Lat and Culi, but they were just not as good. The Perfect Weasel tasted exactly the the coffee would would get at good Hanoi coffee shops. Two kilos of “Perfect Weasel”, cost us $75 US. Note that “real” Kape Luwak is about $250 per kilo.  The “weasel” coffee we bought was much cheaper.  We have no idea what the origin of the coffee we bought is, only that it tasted good.  Reportedly, the Vietnamese have developed a method of treating coffee beans to make them taste like weasel coffee.

The prices in the photo below are from Tam Loc are open to some negotiation. We weighed the coffee when we got home. The Tam Loc was exactly correct. The Kim Lai seemed a bit light. We can’t imagine that local coffee shops buy their coffee at these places at these prices. Next time we are in Hanoi we’ll spend more time at the markets (such as Dong Xuan) and see if we can find cheaper beans.

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The huge Dong Xuan Public Market in Hanoi.

Star Anise for sale Fong Xuan market, Hanoi

Star Anise for sale Dong Xuan market, Hanoi

Comments (4) Write a comment

  1. The weasels used for coffee bean production are caged animals generally. Not free range!!


  2. Dear friends,
    My family have a coffee farm in Dak Lak, so that i will provide for you a good quality local coffee bean.
    Pride for coffee: 15usd/1kg for Robusta , 17usd/1kg for Arabica, 30usd/1kg Moka
    I will free shipping in HaNoi, for more information about my local coffee visit my Facebook page:
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    Or contact to me below:
    Phone: +84988.532.968
    Thank you,


  3. Nothing better than a great cup of coffee! During my recent visit to PI (Alaminos Laguna area) I had an opportunity to taste some home grown roasted coffee made right there and I was completely blown away. The rich dark color had me concerned it would be bitter and overly strong, but when I tried it I found it to be very rich and tasty with no bitterness at all, it was a wonderful cup of coffee. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know when my wife was very young her Lolo had a (small) coffee plantation in Negros Occidental up on the side of a mountain, based on that and my experience with some of the local grown/roasted coffee I have had there I thought you could find an abundance of good coffee beans right in the Philippines, is that not the case? How do you brew your coffee, do you use a French press or some other type. Interesting article I enjoyed reading it. Thanks


    • Hi Kevin,

      I have had some excellent coffee from Philippine barako beans, but they are not available here in Iloilo. We do buy “Monk’s Blend” beans which are from a monastery in Bukidnon. We pay P234 for 1/2 kilo. It’s decent but nothing more. We also buy “Kaffee Karoma” a dark roast from Italy for P700 per kilo. It’s pretty good. We loved the cafes in Hanoi and the coffee they served, so we may have gone overboard in wanting to bring some back. Next time we are Hanoi, we are going to search the gigantic Dong Xuan Market there for coffee at better prices. It’s sort of like the Divisoria in Manila.

      Bob and Carol


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