I love coffee, which i have to drink 2 cups, in morning and evening, everyday to work effectively. Majority of vietnamese also like coffee but their ways of enjoying aren’t same. From my trips in 3 regions of Vietnam, i saw very big differences in coffee cultures.
To compare the differences, i will take 3 cities, 3 centers of culture in Vietnam: Hanoi, Hue and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city). Coffee cultures of Hanoi and Hue are quite same so i could easily adapt. However, Saigon is too different, i even got shocked when saw them “enjoying”.
Coffee culture of Hue people
Coffee culture of Hue can be described in 3 words: concentrated, subtle and slow, like their personality. Because there’re not many amusement parks while too much free time, so they can enjoy coffee at anytime of the day. In the hot summer, you will see the cafes along Huong river are always crowded.
Hue people usually don’t pick luxurious cafes, they like sidewalk cafes, small cafes along Huong river or shady streets. Their coffee cup is very little, but most concentrated in Vietnam. Hue coffee only has 2 types: black coffee and milk coffee. The cafes always use small and low cups to store, put in 1 or 2 huge ices each cup, wait for them melting and slowly enjoy.
Hue cafes are usually very quiet and peace. They open light music, Trinh music (a favorite light music kind in Vietnam) or pre-war music. They never loud talk or laugh but whisper. Now, there are many cafes were opend in the city, but if you want to enjoy the really Hue’s coffee culture, let’s come to the famous cafes along Huong river, such as: Vi Da Xua, Song Xanh (Green river), Doi Bo (double riverbanks), Sau Dong (Sad Winter), Nhat Tao, Long Gio (Windy),… on the streets: Le Loi, Nguyen Cong Tru, Han Mac Tu, Nguyen Sinh Cung,… where are most visited by the locals.
Coffee culture of Hanoi people
The way that Hanoian drink coffee is quite same Hue, they also 2 main types: black and brown coffee. However, Hanoi’s wheather is colder than Hue, so they divide coffee into 4 types: Ice brown(coffee + milk + ice), ice black (black coffee+ice), hot brown (hot coffee + milk) and hot black (hot black coffee).
Additon, Hanoian also invented a very unique type of coffee: egg-coffee – combine chicken egg and coffee according to a special recipe.
And every time coffee, they also slowly enjoying like Hue, but anyway, Hanoi is big city so people have no fresh and quite spaces, except sidewalk cafes on Hoan Kiem lakeshore. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if see Hanoians are very calm and slow to enjoy, while the restaurant where they sit is very old and shabby, the scene in front is very bustle and noisy.
However, Hanoian drink coffee less than Hue. They don’t have the habit of drinking coffee in the morning but do it in the evening, except the retirees who have much free time. They drink by small glasses or ceramic mugs. Coffee in every cup is more than Hue a bit but thinner. The most famous street of coffee in Hanoi is Hang Hanh (in Old Quater), and the most famous cafes of capital: Giang (39 – Nguyen Huu Huan), Lam (60 – Nguyen Huu Huan), Nhan (39D – Hang Hanh) and Dinh (13 – Dinh Tien Hoang).
And of Saigon people
Coffee culture of Saigon is very special and different compared to Hanoi and Hue: lots of ice and little coffee. Coffee cups of Saigon people look like coca-cola cups about color, volume and function. Come in a cafe in Saigon, if you call a coffee, they will bring for you a very big cup, you just drink and don’t need doing anything more. They drink coffee like “slaking” than “enjoying”. If you visit Saigon at first time, the coffee drinking can creat a big shock.
Only in Saigon, people drink coffee by straws. Not at all, while Hanoi and Hue use big ice to drink coffee and small ice to drink tea, then Saigon do against. Coffee in Saigon is also very sugary, i almost couldn’t feel any bitter of coffee. Most of Hanoian and Hue can’t drink 1 cup of coffee in Saigon, because it’s too sugary and too much, while Saigon people can’t drink coffee in Hanoi and Hue, because it’s too concentrated.
Travelling Saigon, if you see someone long sitting in restaurant, then that person may be an immigrant or tourist from other places. Saigon people come to cafe to lunch, work, quickly drink a coffee to go to work and rarely long sit. You can be easy to see a Saigon comes in a cafe, call a big coffee and drink it in 1 breath like drinking a glass of soda (i really startled when saw that).
A specical in Saigon, best coffee is sold at smallest cafes on sidewalks and against, so if you want to enjoy Saigon coffee style, don’t get big restaurants, let’s come to a sidewalk cafe, call a coffee and “enjoy”.