Ca Phé, café, coffee.
“Should I kill myself or have another cup of coffee” ? – Albert Camus (seen below beside himself with ennui and existential angst).
To which we dislocated hippies reply, ” Don’t be a silly goose Bert, have another coffee” !
The Vietnamese are serious coffee lovers – from hole-in-the-wall two-seat dives (obligatory kiddie/circus midget stools of course) to hip ‘n happening altars to the coffee bean. They take their beans seriously and are particularly obsessive about the weasel/civet (depends on your translation) excretion blend. God knows we all love small furry rodents.
Taking our role as your advance – troop of culinary explorers we have tried a number of coffee styles particular to Vietnam including:
Egg Coffee: egg yolks and condensed milk blended and stirred into a strong hot black coffee.
Coconut Coffee: Coconut ice cream stirred into cold coffee.
Yoghurt Coffee: yoghurt, condensed milk stirred into cold coffee and packed with shaved ice.
Saigon Black – the strongest (knock-your-socks-off intensity. Fuller flavour, acidic but delicious.
Hanoi Black – still strong but not as well-rounded a coffee and of course the basic Vietnamese coffee which is everywhere. Bill repeatedly asks for a black coffee and it always turns up with the condensed milk at the bottom of the cup, which will stay there unless stirred.
Here are some of our favourite places. Firstly, the standout, Doll Coffee.
Doll Coffee Da Nang A surprise of a Café down a dark alley in Da Nang. A little flowery verdant paradise on different levels with impressive doll collection out the back, small but deep koi pond and teensy weensy hamsters (we didn’t ask if they are the secret behind (so to speak) the astonishing flavour).
Flavourful, luscious coffee with a hint of mint, frappacinos, fruit juices and again with the complimentary fragrant iced Jasmine water. The dreamiest, creamiest, bitterest, bestest cup we’ve had. Complex, layered, mood altering , life enhancement all in an inch of coffee in a glass. 151/1 Nguyễn Văn Thoại, An Hải Đông, Sơn Trà, Đà Nẵng
Cafétéria Le Fê Hôi An An A retro café with groovy jazz posters, old conga drums and a koi pond to mesmerise even the most jaded of travellers. Good coffee, Iced coffee yoghurt and fruit juices. Delicious fragrant chilled Jasmine water in a never-ending cup. It was here that we heard the Vietnamese/French version of Lee and Nancy’s “Bang Bang” and things can never be the same again. 69/3 Phan Chu Trinh, Phuong Minh An, Hôi An
Hill Station Hôi An
A café that transforms into a bar at night. It has a delicious selection of Italian charcuterie and cheeses,
combinations of which feature on the menu, THE best fruit salad with yoghurt and a fragrant hill honey that is close to heroin in its addiction index. We’re not sure if they play to their audience but they have great music. 321 Nguyễn Duy Hiệu, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam.
Công Cá Phé Hanoi This is a chain of hip coffee shops all over Hanoi. The vibe is cool and the music is hot. The waitstaff are dressed in guerilla greens and the decoration is neo-distressed-farmer/fighter. This is our local
This is the branch opposite Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
Mint Café Hanoi A restaurant attached to a hotel, Mint Coffeee has the usual offerings; juice, coffee, tea, as well as snacks. We popped in to escape the heat, tried our first egg coffee (delicious) and stayed because the waitresses were so charming and informative. 38 Ấu Triệu, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội.
Thank heavens for Christopher Columbus, perhaps the greatest Italian of all ? Where would Vietnam be without coffee or chillies ?
Columbus shown above evidently suffering from a chilli coffee reflux.