By Uyen Pham
If you ever want to experience one of the best coffee culture, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam is the destination that you should definitely check out. The combination of coffee and Ho Chi Minh city together probably sounds very new to a lot of people, but you will never regret finding out about this growing coffee culture in Vietnam, especially in the south, Ho Chi Minh city. It might sound surprising to some people, but Vietnam is the second largest coffee exporter in the world, right after Brazil.
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam back in 19th century by French during the colonization. Although the origin of coffee was from France, the Vietnamese has developed their own coffee culture later on and made it into the unique Vietnamese Iced Coffee that we know nowadays. “Ca phe sua da”, litterally means “coffee,milk and ice”, is the name for the coffee that you could find in every corner in Ho Chi Minh city. Being known as one of the busiest city in Vietnam, coffee has become the indispensable part of Ho Chi Minh city. You can find coffee places in various types everywhere you go in the city.
What is it, the “ca phe sua da” that I mentioned earlier in the post? Vietnamese Iced Coffee contained around 2 table spoons of sweetened condensed milk, and brewed coffee from the individual coffee filter called “phin”, a small metal filter chamber cup with a filter insert that tamps down the ground coffee. After pouring hot water in the filter, you just need to wait for the coffee to drip down and mix it up with the condensed milk, put some ice in it to enjoy the very tasty coffee. The coffee actually can be enjoyed hot or cold with ice, but in a hot and humid tropical weather like Ho Chi Minh city, iced coffee becomes more popular. Robusta is the coffee bean that is used in the traditional Vietnamese iced coffee. This type of bean makes the coffee extremely strong and therefore it is a good resource of energy to start a new day. If you are used to drinking Starbucks coffee, it’s nothing compare to the Vietnamese one. This is a best fit for you if you have always wanted something stronger than expresso to boost up your energy.
Walking on the street in the city in the morning, you can easily spot a few middle-aged men sitting on plastic stools with tables with short legs in a corner of the sidewalk, or in a small open-space coffee shop. They probably are reading some newspapers with a cup of iced coffee next to a cigarette ashtray on the table, or playing chess with their friends or just looking at the street with motobikes passing by and get lost in their deep thought. In the evening time, more people that get off from work come to enjoy some coffee and chat with their friends or their colleages. People in Ho Chi Minh city like to drink coffee anytime in a day: early in the morning before going to work, during break time from work and after getting off work. Drinking coffee to them is not just about getting more energy to start the day, but a form of hanging out and socializing with friends in their busy daily lives.
You can enjoy coffee in different types of places depending on your tastes: from low-end to high-end, on the sidewalk to a pretty indoor space with gorgerous decors. If you want to feel the busyness of the city streets and want to blend in with the locals, you can sit on one of the small stools and tables that the owner of the very small coffee vendor lays out on the sidewalk drinking a cup of coffee while looking at the street filled with people and vehicles. “Ca phe bet” is another local coffee culture that you might find it interesting to experience. The litteral meaning of “ca phe bet” is that you drink your coffee while sitting on the ground. Walking by a small park that is located opposite to Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon in Dictrict 1 or Turtle Lake in District 3, you can see some people passing out big pieces of old newspaper and asking if you want to drink coffee. The area is usually covered by a lot of people, usually teenagers and young adults but there are older people too, sitting and chatting on the grounds on top of the newspaper with their coffee and street foods.
Through times, the coffee culture in Ho Chi Minh city adopts trends like themed coffee shop from other country too. If you are a type of person like somewhere that is quieter to study or just to chill, you can stop at a small coffee shop with minimalist or vintage decor that plays jazzy coffee music like Thinker&Dreamer Coffee, Nu Bistro, Năm Mười Mười Lăm Cafe, Cộng Cafe, etc… Coffee shops with beautiful decors can also be found in an old five-story apartment building. The building might look somewhat very old and ancient on the outside and the space of the shop is usually very small but you would love the aesthetic in their decoration inside the shop. If you love the nature, you can enjoy your coffee in a garden coffee shop, which is usually outdoor and has a lot of trees and flowers surrounded such as Du Mien Garden Cafe. There are also cat or dog or even some extraordinary pets like snake, lizard, etc. coffee shops if you’re a pet lover like Hachiko Coffee, Tokyo Pet Center, Babo Coffee, etc. The city also has franchise coffee shops like Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf too, but Highlands Coffee, Trung Nguyen Coffee and The Coffee House are more popular among people who live there.
There are a lot of interesting and fun aspects that Ho Chi Minh city can offer you when you travel there. Especially, if you are a true coffee lover or even you are not, exploring the coffee culture in this city definitely make your trip more fulfilling. Next time if you have a chance to travel to Ho Chi Minh city, make sure to grab a chair on the sidewalk, order a cup of “ca phe sua da” and let the coffee cool you down in a hot and humid city’s weather.