An egg? In your coffee? It’s more likely than you think.
I’ve gotten a few requests to write more about food and cafe’s, and I thought that was a great idea! So while I was in Hanoi last week, I decided to explore Vietnam’s incredibly diverse coffee culture.
When people think of coffee culture, thoughts usually go to Italy and France, for good reason. However, Vietnam’s coffee culture is probably my favourite. Like the aforementioned countries, people sit at street cafes and watch the motorbikes zip across the street. However, coffee in Vietnam is far more diverse to appease people of any palette.
As someone who’s been drinking coffee since they were seven years old, I knew I had to dig deep into Vietnam’s fascinating take on coffee. Vietnamese coffee, in four words, is dreamy, sweet, indulgent, intense. Its strength comes from the Robusta beans used, exclusively grown in Asia, which are far easier to grow than Arabica beans. It can be a refreshing drink on a hot day with their famous iced coffee, a sweet escape with coconut coffee, or almost a dessert with egg coffee. From one coffee lover to another, here’s a guide to Vietnamese coffee, and where to get the best of each kind in Hanoi.
Vietnamese Drip Coffee
To make this, you need a drip, such as a French press. You’ll need Vietnamese coffee grounds and 6-8oz of boiling water. Before you pour in all the water, pour in two tablespoons so the coffee grounds can “bloom.” Then, press the filter onto the bloomed coffee grounds, making it more flavourful. Finally, pour the rest of the water into the filter and let it drip. In the meantime, pour a bit of condensed milk on the bottom to sweeten the otherwise dark, bitter coffee. Pour one tablespoon for regular coffee, 2 for sweet, and 3 for basically a dessert.
Where to Drink
- Kalina Cafe – I ordered the hot drip coffee here. It was a bit pricier as it was right on Hoan Kiem Lake, but if you want a coffee that’ll slap you in the face and awaken you, this is the place to go. You can people watch as they jog along the lake, or pick up a steaming bowl of pho at one of the countless street food spots right next to the cafe.
- Address: 1 Tràng Thi, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm
- Quán Cafe 61 Quang Trung – If you’re looking the traditional drip on ice to escape the inevitable Vietnamese humidity, this 12-seat local shop will satiate your needs. For just 25,000 VND ($1.10!), you’ll get a sweet, icy coffee made right in front of you as you sit along the Thiên Quang lake. Lakeside coffee shops are a big thing here.
- Address: 61 Quang Trung, Nguyễn Du, Hai Bà Trưng
For those who can’t take the strength of Vietnamese coffee, Bac Xiu is a great starting point. Made with more condensed milk than coffee, it’s a very easy coffee to drink, and I often drank it at night when I wanted coffee but didn’t want the
heart palpitations energy from it. Bac Xiu is my favourite because despite loving strong coffee, it comes in a coconut variety, which is just unbelievably good. It’s made with drip coffee, condensed milk, and coconut cream; I wonder why Whole Foods isn’t selling this as an ice cream for $10/pint.
Where to Drink
- Young Coffee – this was the first coffee shop I visited in Hanoi, so it has a special place in my heart. A trendy, three-story cafe, they have the best coconut bac xiu I’ve ever had…and also the only coconut bac xiu I’ve ever tasted. Head up to the third floor to get views of Hanoi’s busy, vibrant streets for 25,000VND per glass. I never had it hot, but over ice is just wonderful.
- Address: 1 Hàng Dầu, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm
- Cong Caphe – This popular Old Quarter shop has bac xiu, without the coconut, but it’s not as sweet as Young Coffee, which I like. Like every Vietnamese coffee shop, they have tiny stools to sit on so you can sip your coffee outdoors and watch life pass by. Also 25,000VND.
- Address: 116 Cầu Gỗ, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm
This special Hanoi-an delicacy was invented in 1946 by Nguyen Giang. He decided to subtitute a dwindling supply of cream with egg yolks, and an idea was born. Today, it’s sold all over Hanoi, and Vietnam as a whole. A combination of whipped egg, coffee powder, condensed milk, and cheese (yes, really), is plopped on top of a normal drip coffee to make a dessert coffee reminiscent of a frothy meringue.
Where to Drink
- Giang Cafe – The original can’t be missed. Ran by Ngyuen Giang’s son, it’s a small cafe hidden on a small lane, but it’s absolutely worth the find. When waiting, you’ll see platters full of egg coffees being delivered to excited locals and tourists alike, and with good reason. It should cost 30,000 VND ($1.32)
- Address: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm
- Han Coffee – Another popular Old Quarter locale, this was my first egg coffee. Slightly less sweet than Giang, I actually preferred this one was it was slightly more mellow.
- 46 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm
Vietnam certainly has the most unique (and cheapest) coffee culture I’ve seen. Modifying coffee with anything other than milk/sugar may be frowned upon in other countries, but not here! Also, You’ll see men in suits sitting on 6-inch plastic stools sipping an iced coffee, and right next to them will be teenage girls doing the same thing. It’s an activity everyone, regardless of class, age, etc. is happy to participate in.
I must reiterate how strong Vietnamese coffee is. My life flashed before my eyes when I stupidly decided to drink five in three hours. I’d recommend one an hour, or two an hour if you’re a true coffee pro, or if you’re just incredibly caffeine-resistant. Now I’m craving one too; off to try and find a Vietnamese cafe here in Edinburgh!