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Salty cream in your morning brew? Why Vietnam’s specialty coffees are catching on around the world


It’s become a popular beverage trend on social media platforms like TikTok in recent months – how to customize your Starbucks order so it tastes like a Vietnamese iced coffee.

And increasingly, some posters are including tips on how to request a specialized version of this sweet caffeinated beverage those in the know swear by – salt coffee, or ca phe muoi.

A small, no-frills café in Vietnam’s historical city of Hue is widely credited with inventing this now-popular beverage, which is made by adding sweetened condensed milk to a base of Vietnamese coffee. The mixture is topped with salted cream and it’s served hot or iced.

“We created salt coffee in 2010 when we opened our first Ca Phe Muoi coffee shop at 10 Nguyen Luong Bang Street,” co-owners Ho Thi Thanh Huong and Tran Nguyen Huu Phong tell CNN Travel via email.

“This combination of condensed milk, salt and black coffee (creates a) creamy mixture that softens the bitterness of the coffee and balances the sweetness of the condensed milk.”

The name of the cafe and now-famous drink is telling. “Ca phe” means coffee and “muoi” means salt in Vietnamese.

Ca Phe Muoi co-owners Ho Thi Thanh Huong and Tran Nguyen Huu Phong.

“We hoped this name would attract people because they always think that black coffee is only with sugar or milk… we thought that if we wanted to open a coffee shop we had to make (it a little different to) attract the customers, then the salt coffee taste would keep them with us,” says the couple.

The strategy worked. Curious locals and tourists began to visit – and they liked what they were drinking.

“Hue people had a habit of drinking black coffee with sugar or condensed milk, so salty coffee was (considered) a strange drink,” they add.