Vietnam is home to some of the best street food dishes in Asia, and a French culinary heritage that has given the country a taste for baguettes, crêpes and coffee. Add the two together, and you have Vietnam’s café culture. From a handful of red and blue plastic chairs spilling over the pavement beside a makeshift stall, to an upmarket chain frequented by Vietnamese hipsters, the country is full of coffee shops… at Cai Rang floating market, in the Mekong Delta, you can even call over a tiny boat and a man in a lovely hat will whip up a fresh iced coffee and hand it over.
A quick guide to ordering Vietnamese coffee
Ca Phe Den : black coffee – very strong!
Ca Phe Da : iced black coffee – refreshing in Vietnam’s humidity
Ca Phe Sua : with condensed milk – adds a sweet creaminess to the strong coffee hit
Ca Phe Sua Da : iced coffee with condensed milk – the best, in our opinion, for a sweet cooler
Ca Phe Trung : egg coffee – foamy egg yolk whisked with sugar is poured onto a shot of coffee to make a thick and rich drink
The best coffee shops in Hanoi
Hanoi’s hipsters while away their weekends in this communist-themed coffee shop chain, sipping on iced coconut coffee and snacking on plates of sunflower seeds and toasted corn. The theme may be an ironic nod to Vietnam’s troubled socialist history, but coffee is taken very seriously here. Coconut coffee with condensed milk was our favourite twist on Vietnamese ca phe, the coconut adding a sweet, frothy touch to the strong caffeine hit. Go even bolder with a coconut coffee shake and enjoy a scoop of coconut ice cream in your coffee, affogato style.
A local haven that’s easy to miss. To find this caffeine-fuelled den head down a dark alley and dodge the neighbours’ washing as you climb stone steps to the café-bar’s entrance. The journey makes the destination even more welcoming – a room that opens out like an old Vietnamese couple’s home with tiled flooring, trinkets hung from every surface, wooden benches with handmade cushions and a rickety ladder leading to a mezzanine. Enjoy yogurt coffee or a sweet, ginger tea, or feel smug with a seat on the tiny balcony looking out at St Joseph’s Cathedral as the hustle and bustle of Hanoi passes below. The cocktails are great, too.
Address: 2 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Significantly more upmarket than the majority of the competition, your coffee here comes in a gold phin (the Vietnamese coffee filter, pictured), served on a smart ceramic tray with a homemade cookie. Ornate brass chandeliers, a huge brass espresso machine and elaborate tiling replace the busy moped-filled streets outside. Order one of the drip coffees to enjoy the upmarket phins, or go for an affogato for something a bit more indulgent.
The best coffee shops in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
A stone staircase behind a souvenir shop leads to uber-hipster L’Usine, a café-restaurant and boutique shop that’s an institution amongst Saigon’s local and expat communities. Sit on the lavish balcony with a Vietnamese drip coffee, laced with condensed milk, and an unmissable caramelised banana bread with cinnamon mascarpone. The fresh salads and sandwiches piled with Vietnamese herbs and marinated meats are also a must.
The best Vietnamese coffee in London
Our favourite place to enjoy a Vietnamese coffee in London is Ca Phe VN Saigon Street Cafe at Broadway Market. The house blend, straight from the Central Highlands of Vietnam, is best enjoyed reclined on one of the cafe’s green deckchairs, watching the food-and-fashion parade of Broadway Market’s Saturday clientele. Ca Phe VN supply many of the Vietnamese restaurants in London; chances are, if you’ve had Vietnamese coffee in London, it’s from here.
Ca Phe VN have just launched coffee workshops, where you can master the art of making authentic Vietnamese coffees using the drip filter method. An hour long, and only £15, they’re a fun, educational stop-off point on your Saturday market shop.
Written by Alex Crossley