Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the late 19th century, but the country quickly became a strong exporter, as vast swathes of the highlands were given over to this important new cash crop. And now the Vietnamese have taken coffee to new levels of almost gastronomical – even medicinal – heights.
Every morning, coffee is a must. And along with the hot cup of coffee is the ritual to make it. The grinded coffee is put into the filter (or phin cà phê), pure hot water in, and then watch drop after drop of coffee drooling down. The morning ritual has never been better.
The people in Saigon love the way coffee is made, and they also have a particular style for drinking coffee. It can be a friendly chat coffee on the sidewalk or artistic coffee, the choices are so many, yet each has its uniqueness.
Sidewalk coffee shops are everywhere. There are large shop, small shop, and sometimes it only takes a push cart and some chairs and tables and you have a Saigon Coffee shop. The most authentic coffee in Saigon is in the cup of these sidewalk coffees because only in these shops, you can witness how Saigon lives. The heart of Saigon is not in malls or restaurants. It lies on the street of this city. In these coffee shops, all social classes are equal. You can be a doctor, off the shift, or an industrial worker on the way to work.
(Not only places to enjoy the coffee or watch the city, sidewalk coffee usually a place for people to read newspaper, talk politics, or just playing some chess. Photo: Quoc-Bao Bui)
Many senior citizens choose these sidewalk coffees to set up their chess table, waiting for an opponent. From these games, these coffee shops, friends are made.
These are called the “expensive” cafe in Saigon due to the lack of space in the crowded Saigon. In order to find a quite large place to set up a coffee shop like this is not easy. These shops are ideal for anyone wants to escape from the noisy city but still can enjoy the delicious coffee in the natural landscape.
Time seems to stop in these garden coffees, mostly because of the quiet and meditated atmosphere. Friends come here to talk; some are just coming here to escape the city.
Sitting Coffee (or Bệt coffee)
Not on fancy chair or any kind of chair, sitting coffee is where you sit on the ground, on the grass, anywhere without a cup of coffee in your hand. The most loyal guests of this type of style are students. The price is not expensive, and the location can be anywhere. Besides of coffee, there are snacks to have along like fried paper rice, ice cream, fried fish ball…
(Sitting coffee has affordable price, located in free environment is the perfect choice for youngsters.)
The interiors of these coffee shops are gorgeous. These “fancy” coffee shops are the addresses for those who love paintings, classic music, fancy cups and exotic decoration.