A Brief History of Vietnamese Egg Coffee

Egg coffee at Café Giang in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Egg coffee at Café Giang in Hanoi, Vietnam. / travel oriented, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Vietnamese egg coffee is a rich, frothy fusion of coffee, sweetener, whipped egg, and several other ingredients. Based on that description—or the experience of actually drinking a cup—you might assume the dessert-like beverage was created specifically for people looking to treat themselves.

In fact, the invention was mainly born of necessity. During the First Indochina War, milk became hard to come by in Vietnam. So, in 1946, a bartender at Hanoi’s Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel developed a coffee drink that used whisked egg as a dairy stand-in. His name was Nguyen Van Giang, and he called his concoction “cà phê trứng,” or “egg coffee.” According to Atlas Obscura, the drink proved successful enough that its maker left the hotel business and founded his own shop, Café Giang, to reach a wider market.

The recipe evolved over time to make the egg flavor more subtle, and the whisking process got easier once the café started using blenders. By the 1980s, VICE reports, the homegrown drink was more popular than ever—and it’s since spread to coffee shops around the world. Today, Café Giang is run by Van Giang’s son, Tri Hoa, who harbors no ill will toward the many baristas who’ve put their own spin on the beverage.

“I’m really open to imitation. It’s a part of the business,” he told VICE. “A lot of people can have the same product and develop it in their own way. For me, I'm confident in my secret ingredient, and it makes my drink original.”

As for the other ingredients, they’re listed for all to see on Café Giang’s website: chicken egg yolk, Vietnamese coffee powder, sweetened condensed milk, butter, and even cheese.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]