Brought into Vietnam by the French in the early 70s of XIX century, coffee quickly became the second most agricultural product after rice. For generations Vietnamese only used to drink tea, as part of Chinese influence. But since the introduction of coffee, it is now one of the most popular drinks in big cities and town all over Vietnam.
Hanoi was one of the first cities of Vietnam that adapted the habit of drinking coffee. As Hanoi was the capital of Indochina during the French colonial time. There were many famous Hanoi coffee shops that are still mentioned in stories of the elderly. And some of them are still there now. With long tradition, special decoration and of course the coffee is good, they are now the symbols for old Hanoi coffee shops. Despite the many “young generation” Hanoi coffee shops following contemporary trends, mainly popular among the youngsters, those classical cafe are always the right places for those who recall of Hanoi from the aged time.
Here are the 2 old style Hanoi coffee shops and 2 new style ones for your considerations.
1. Lâm café
Right in the center of Old quarter of Hanoi. That café used to be the place where famous artists of Hanoi gathered and chat. And their art works are still displayed on the wall. This is one of the first Hanoi coffee shops opened. This place gives guests the true feeling of the way Hanoian people drink coffee : crowded, sit on low chairs, smokers mixed with none- smokers and the coffee itself is strong and drank with sweet milk.
This is my favorite place to have a cup of Hanoi coffee and watch the traffic passing by. Drink list is boring: coffee, tea or orange juice. That’s all. But that what they could only drink in the past. As when during the war, Hanoi was so poor that drinking coffee was a fancy thing, only for the wealthy and some artists. Lâm café is located in the Old Quarter, just about one minute from the Hoan Kiem Lake.
The series of the same type of Hanoi coffee shops: Năng café, Giảng café (with their special egg-coffee)
2. Mai café
Again one of the first café opened in Hanoi in 1936. Unlike Lâm café, who buy coffee powder and make coffee to sell only, this Mai café roast coffee beans right there in the shop so guest can witness the processes of roasting coffee beans. This is one of the very few Hanoi coffee shops where they make their own coffee. We can smell of good coffee from miles away. These people are famous among coffee lovers who like to watch the making as well as to enjoy the coffee itself. Many local people buy coffee powder from Mai café to make some cups themselves at home. Mai café is located near Thien Quang Lake, which is about 20 minute walking from the Old Quarter.
3. Cộng café
Newly opened for 3-4 years now but this has been very successful way of opening a new era for Hanoi coffee shops in the city. They have a chain of around 20 Hanoi coffee shops now. The special part of these cafe are the decoration: communist theme with all items taken from the war time, propaganda arts, together with an interesting menu and a big selection of choice from coffee to cocktails. The only cafe among those above who has coffee machine for making some good cappuccino and latte. This is a favorite place for young hipsters among the many Hanoi coffee shops.
4. Tet décor café
Same owner of Maison de Tet – Peter, an American expat who has been living in Hanoi for more than ten years. I had chance to work with him few years ago when he still owned 2 hotels in Sapa and 2 Hanoi coffee shops. Peter co-owns this cafe chains with a Vietnamese artist specialized in sculptures.
Very interesting decoration of Tet – Vietnamese Chinese New Year. This is a cafe plus restaurant as they have big menu for food too. Peter newly studies about coffee but now becomes an coffee expert. And he can tell guests all secrets of how to roast beans and make a good cup of coffee. This cafe is located in the West Lake area which is not so close to the Old Quarter but still pretty popular among the youngsters who want something different from the everyday coffee drinking.This cafe is also very well known by expats community where they can meet up people from there countries. Having a good West Lake view, this is one of the must-try Hanoi coffee shops that owned and run by foreigners.
There are still thousands of different good Hanoi coffee shops. This is only for you to compare the old style and new style of Hanoi coffee shops. It really depends on your taste of coffee and decoration to choose. Some only want good quality of coffee and forget about everything else. But some come to those coffee shops for the atmosphere and the unique decoration mainly. Above all, those Hanoi coffee shops and the many cafe in Vietnam is a good prove for Vietnam being the second largest coffee exporter and our coffee is real good.
Visit a couple traditional coffee shops and sample the drink on our Hanoi Street Food Tour.