Sitting in a café is popular all over the world, but in Vietnam it is a paradise. There are a lot of coffee chains and a lot of private shops + the coffee itself is excellent.
Here in the photo : A café in Hanoi (in Saigon people will never wear coats…).
If you are a digital nomade and want to work with your laptop in a café, then Vietnam is one of the best places on earth. In the big cities and especially Saigon, the cafés are big and with a lot of sockets for the electronic devices + the wifi works good. If you are not a digital nomade, then just sit in a café and watch the people.
Café in Vietnamese is written : Cà Phê
How is coffee served in Vietnam ?
It depends where you are in Vietnam. If you happen to be in a big city (Saigon, Hanoi, Danang), the coffee chains have regular Italian machines that can produce Italian style café like a Cappuccino.
On the other hand, in a village (or cities without a lot of tourists), they usually don’t have coffee machines and don’t have fresh milk. The coffee is then served in the traditional Vietnamese way. You receive a cup with a filter above it, and then you have to wait until all the water has passed to your cup. It takes about 10 minutes.
The Vietnamese coffee filter is called Phin.
Then, if you want milk with your coffee, you receive sweet condensed milk. Milk is not a popular product in the traditional Asia and milk is hard to store (you need a refrigerator). So instead of fresh milk they store cans of condensed milk.
The coffee with sweet condensed milk doesn’t taste like a Cappuccino. For someone who is Italian or aspire to be Italian, a coffee with condensed milk is like Spaghetti with Ketchup or like a Pizza with Ananas (and by the way, in Asia, you will often be served Spaghetti with Ketchup and Pizza with Ananas).
Here in the photo : A Cappuccino that I received in Phu Quoc island. The big resort on the beach had a Cappuccino machine.
Personally, I usually give up on drinking coffee, when I can’t find a real Cappuccino (unless I am totally desperate).
In the photo : Tea that I received in Dalat
In the photo : Tea with a view on the lake in Dalat.
The breed of café served in Vietnam
The coffee that is served in Vietnam is excellent. No matter how it is served (traditional or Italian style), the basic material is good. The taste is strong.
There are mainly 2 types of coffee beans in the world : Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica is the more popular type, at least in the west. Arabica is considered more sophisticated than Robusta. It is harder to grow Arabica, it is more expensive and the taste is sweeter. Arabica contains less caffeine than Robusta. It is a matter of taste so some people prefer the one over the other.
In Vietnam, it is Robusta that is more popular. Vietnam is the largest Robusta producer in the world. Vietnam is also the second coffee producer in the world in general, after Brazil. You can see the classification of coffee production by country on Wikipedia.
It was the French who introduced the coffee production in Vietnam in 1857.
I am not a coffee expert (nor beer or wine expert) and I cannot tell the difference between the types of coffee that I get but I know when the coffee is good and in Vietnam (and Thailand), it is good.
The small Cafés – The private shops
Except the big chains of coffee, there is an endless amount of small places that serve coffee.
You will usually see Vietnamese people sitting in these small places and not tourists. The coffee is usually served in the traditional way (filter+ condensed milk).
There are sometimes small stools of plastic on the outside and the clients are sitting and watching the passers and the heavy traffic. The small stools are popular everywhere in Vietnam.
There are also mobile cafés with the little stools. Here in the photo, a spot to watch the sunset in Vung Tau.
The café with plastic stools can also be on the beach
Here in the photo, a café beside the river in Saigon.
The most important aspect, when you drink a coffee, is the view. Here in the picture the view from a café in Dalat. Amazing view.
Here again, view from a café in Dalat.
But sometimes there is no view, just coffee.
Some of the cafés have a roasting machine.
The Coffee Chains in Saigon
Saigon is the city with the highest number of modern cafeterias belonging to big chains. Number 2 is Hanoi. The same chains operate also in other locations in Vietnam but in smaller numbers. In a medium city like Dalat or in the island of Phu Quoc, there are barely coffee chains (but there are a lot of private cafés ).
Some of the coffee chains :
Cong Ca Phe
The most interesting coffee chain in Vietnam. The decor is that of a military base (or a village) from the era of the Vietnam war in the seventies. There are no weapons but there are a lot of items that could belong to a museum.
Every coffee shop is unique in its decor. You will be occupied taking photos. Some of the branches are more claustrophobic than others, it is like being inside a bunker.
The waiters are dressed in the spirit of the place, with a green outfit.
Young people adore this chain of coffee.
Cong cafés usually don’t have a Cappuccino machine so there is no Cappuccino, they serve traditional style coffee. Still, it doesn’t mean that the drinks are simple and of a military quality. On the contrary, they serve very nice drinks.
Try the coffee with coconut, it is a best seller. Also Coconut with Green Rice is great.
You can read a book, if you understand Vietnamese
There are about 50 branches in Vietnam. Most of them in Saigon and Hanoi. See Cong Ca Phe website.
They are the biggest chain of coffee in Vietnam. There are hundreds of branches in the country and they are still growing. You will find them inside the malls, on the streets and near museums and tourist attractions.
They have a coffee machine and they have cappuccino. The prices are cheaper than Starbucks. The stores are usually spacious with very comfortable sofas. There are tiny cakes that you can take with the drink.
They also sell packages of Highlands coffee, to take home.
See Highland Coffee website.
Starbucks + The Coffee Bean
You know them. They are located almost everywhere in the world and also in Vietnam.
The branches in Vietnam are quite standard, and yes, there is a Cappuccino.
I appreciate that you can find in these stores a Bagel with cream cheese. The Coffee Bean has also nice breakfasts with eggs.
Trung Nguyen Legend
They are the biggest producer of coffee in Vietnam. They export their products to more than 60 countries. They have also a lot of cafeterias in Vietnam. Recently, the cafeterias have become more sophisticated, with bars all in white, in some cases. They sell packets of coffee to take away. There used to be a free water corner in the branches, but now it has disappeared, at least in Saigon.
There used to be a branch in Saigon with sand on the floor, like at the beach. It was cool.
Now, they have taken out the sand and it is a normal café.
Katinat are relatively new in Saigon. The decor is nice. Teenagers like this chain. I saw many times teenagers bringing to the café, their own cat. Amazing beautiful cats.
More coffee chains :
Kafa is a popular chain in Hanoi
Some memories from difficult times
It is interesting to remember the cafés in Saigon during the Corona era (years 2020 to 2022). In that sad period, it was forbidden to sit in a café, only “take away” was allowed.
So you had to buy your coffee and take it to a bench in the park (in some periods, also the parks were closed).
Some of the cafés had invented strange instruments in order to keep distance from the customers. Here in the picture you can see a sort of crane that was used to collect the money from the customers and to give the coffee.
It was strange
Thankfully today, the cafés in Vietnam are functioning normally and they are great, so let’s enjoy them !
Here in the photo, cafés along the “book street” in Saigon.
Maison Marou – Chocolate
I am talking now about chocolate, not coffee.
In Vietnam also cacao beans are grown and you can find good chocolate in the supermarkets.
An amazing chain to drink and eat chocolate are the cafés of Maison Marou.
They are French. They started with one big store in the second district of Saigon.
Now, they have several branches in Saigon and Hanoi. They will probably grow to all Vietnam. The breakfast you can have here is amazing, the pastries with chocolate are very good. Also the ice-cream is good.
You can see Maison Marou website, for more details.
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