It is almost impossible to visit Vietnam without a visit or two (or a hundred!) to the famed Vietnamese “Coffee Houses”. Indeed, as the Vietnamese are a very sociable and close knit people, these ubiquitous and varied businesses have become an important meeting place high in both the social and business calendars. Coffee House can be a misnomer as most will server a variety of different drinks and snakcs besides just coffee.
The main criteria is the quality of the beverage but just as often the setting will be equally important. The decor and location will often determine the type of customers they are catering to and you can try a different coffee house every day of the year and still be amazed at the variety of offerings – from rustic workmen type cafes, to bohemian outbursts, to book clubs to immaculate steel and glass megaliths to the industrial age.
A Robust Coffee
Vietnam is one of the world’s premium suppliers of the Robustus coffee bean. Compared to Arabica, Robustus coffee is stronger in caffine and taste, which will be evident when you get that first startling taste of a full flavored, caffeine drenched caphe sua da. It also should be mentioned that, no doubt due to the generally hot and humid climate, Vietnamese will most often prefer their coffee iced (da) rather than hot (nom).
Like most of Asia, coffee is usually served heavily sugared (duong). “Khong duong” (no sugar) will often be met with a puzzled look – perhaps because your pronunciation is wrong but more likely just due to the strangeness of the request!
Besides an assortment of coffee in a myriad of flavors, most cafes do a healthy side business in fresh fruit juices and smoothies and a wide selection of teas (Vietnamese were traditionally big tea drinkers – but that is another story). Most will also have a variety of snacks, biscuits, breads and cakes to go with your beverage, some will even provide a full meal service to boot.
Some Coffee Houses double as a bespoke offices – with free WiFi, power points and profuse tables and seating. As many young Vietnamese live in apartments and small dwellings, the coffee house is often seen as a more social and more comfortable office or study away from home – all with the benefit of on tap snacks, coffee and drinks!
We hope you are starting to see why Vietnam’s coffee houses have such a large and enthusiastic following. Besides the major players like Highland Coffee, Trung Nguyen Legend, Phuc Long, Cong and so on, there are a huge variety to suit every taste, budget and sensibility.
A Phin for your Thoughts
It is not hard to get a delicious caphe den (black coffee) for 10k at a roadside stall but expect to pay 50k or more at the coffee chains. A traditional caphe den is usually prepared with a phin – a steel filter/cup that sits on top of the glass (most Vietnamese coffee is served in glasses, not cups). Ground coffee and hot water are added and the rich brew slowly drips coffee into the waiting receptical. Be warned, it is not a fast process so sit back and enjoy the conversation, the atmosphere and the mosaic of people around you. To cater for the fast food crowd, often a large batch of caphe phin is prepared before hand and dolled out as needed.
Traditional coffee houses will usually serve the phin to your table, accompanied by a glass of weak tea, following the French precept that coffee is a liquer and not a thirst quencher. You slake your thirst with the tea and so can better savour the rich flavours of the coffee bean.
Cappachino and Latte are making inroads into the high end of the Vietnam coffee scene but a lot depends on the quality and freshness of the milk that is used. As fresh milk is still somewhat of a luxury item in Vietnam, it is suggested to stick with the local phin coffee, either as caphe sua da, caphe den da or a caphe den as a heart started in the morning. You are in Vietnam, not New York so sit back and enjoy the stunningly unique and famous Vietnam coffee in its traditional form.
Some Local Ninh Binh Coffee Houses
The below is not a full list or even special recommendation. Meant to give a new visitor some idea of what is available, it is still suggest to look around and find a house or two that suits your budget, taste and sensibilities. You will not be short of choices!
20 Đinh Tất Miễn, Đông Thành, Ninh Bình
+84 98 940 94 98
King cafe Ninh Binh
6th floor MONALISA TOWER, 1 Tràng An street, Đông Thành ward, Ninh Bình
Dubai Coffee Ninh Binh
Ninh Khanh ward , Ninh Binh city
+84 97 830 88 50
Time Cafe and Bakery
no1. Le Hong Phong Ninh Bình
+84 91 477 69 99
Cha Go Tea & Cafe
32 Đinh Tất Miễn, TP. Ninh Bình, Ninh Bình
022 9388 8866
Số 16 Trần Phú, P. Vân Giang, TP. Ninh Bình, Ninh Bình
0915 971 210