Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest coffee producers, second only to Brazil. Following the end of colonial rule in 1955, the French left a lingering cafe culture legacy. Here are the best places to grab a cup of coffee, ranging from mom-and-pop stands serving ca phe sua da – tar-like robusta rocket fuel with sweetened condensed milk and ice – to chic, charming hangouts.
Tadioto, which means “we go by car”, is a cafe bar and alternative arts space established by former journalist Nguyen Qui Duc. It’s a hub for cultural dialogue and the exchange of ideas, and regularly hosts poetry readings, music performances and experimental artistic projects. It’s also a great spot for a cocktail and bite to eat.
This quirky, retro Communist kitsch-themed franchise has grown quickly in the last few years to a whopping eight outlets in the capital. While all are popular – particularly among Hanoi’s young hipsters – the original outlet on Trieu Viet Vuong, simply decorated with wooden furnishings, brightly coloured cushions and propaganda signs, remains the one most steeped in nostalgia.
Cafe Lam Hanoi
This low-key, one-room Old Quarter coffee shop dates back to 1950s French colonial rule. It operated throughout the war, when down-on-their-luck artists would give proprietor Nguyen Van Lam paintings and sketches in exchange for bottomless cups of coffee and a spot to socialise. Today, Cafe Lam Hanoi’s loyal following pulls up a low plastic stool to enjoy ca phe den (iced black coffee) and ca phe sua da surrounded by Lam’s art collection.
With the exception of live shows on Friday and Saturday evenings, patrons can select and play an LP from the extensive selection arranged around the cafe’s wood plank walls – Nhac means music in Vietnamese – while enjoying traditional coffee pours and specialities such as coconut coffee smoothies and ca phe trung – egg coffee prepared with egg yolks, sugar and condensed milk.