"Gooooooooood moooorniiing Vietnam" - Adrian Cronauer
Thankfully for Cronauer, the coffee would have been pretty damn good in the mornings!
Coffee may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Hanoi, but the city’s coffee scene has its roots in its history. From the introduction of egg coffee during the Second World War to the city’s coffee street, Hanoi is alive with the sound of people brewing a cup or two! All of this means that there is no better place for a coffee addict to be based when going through Northern Vietnam than Hanoi.
The first thing to mention is that Vietnamese coffee is strong. Like really strong. Like the kind of strong where you can kind of feel yourself doing somersaults internally by the end of cup number two.
The second really cool thing about Vietnamese coffee – especially up in Hanoi – is the unique types that we had never really seen before! Sure, you have your standard espresso machine café, but you’ll also get your more traditional Vietnamese coffee beans just strained through boiling water (with a healthy amount of condensed milk added to make it sweet), as well as the local egg and coconut coffees.
Created by Nguyen Giang – a bartender for the 5-star Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel in Hanoi - in 1946, egg coffee has become extremely popular among locals and travellers alike. The shortage of fresh milk due to the Second World War saw Giang improvise in order to keep the clientele happy, so he replaced it with egg yolk. Legend has it that the customers loved it, convincing him to leave the hotel and start his own café serving only his brand of egg coffee. While the recipe has since been emulated (almost every café in the city will have it on the menu), both his son and his daughter claim to be using the exact same recipe in their own respective café’s.
Another Vietnamese first for us was coconut coffee. Strong Vietnamese black coffee is mixed with shaved coconut ice and coconut milk and sugar to create what may as well be a caffeine injection. We’re not saying this thing is sweet enough to not make you realise how strong it is, but let’s say two cups at Loading T – one of the best café’s in Hanoi – was enough to convince us that we could walk to China sooo yeah, this one is a keeper. (That’s saying something bearing in mind we are not usually fans of cold coffee).
Convinced? Well here are the five best café’s in Hanoi for you to get your caffeine fix!
Loading -T (Hanoi Old Town)
Usually, describing a place as being in a yellow, collapsing, French-style mansion, wouldn’t be a positive thing, yet this place 100% deserves to be an exception. This place toes the line between ‘designed to look rustic’ and ‘oh this place is actually just crumbling’ perfectly and, with an outside terrace, is a great spot to people watch while having a huge glass of their amazing coconut coffee. (This may have been the place that convinced us that we could walk back to China – so we’ll have to award it the title of having the best coconut coffee in Hanoi).
Note Coffee (Hanoi Old Town)
Walking into Note Coffee, I instantly felt vindicated for all of my random post-it note addictions during university that my friends said were a poor way to put words on my wall because this place is covered in them. Literally.
A stone’s throw away from Hoan Kiem Lake, Note Coffee not only serves great coffee, but is an Instagram hotspot in Hanoi. With huge windows facing out over Hoan Kiem Lake, the view from your seat on a nice day is second only to Café Eden’s cathedral-facing terrace, and the cute little post-it messages they write to you with your order make you feel all nice inside, especially when they hand out a pen for you to write your own notes to other customers to stick onto the walls. Bonus points if anyone finds the one we left!
Remember that egg story we told you at the beginning of this post? Well, the owner of this place is his son who now sells his egg coffee with egg yolk, Vietnamese coffee powder, condensed milk, cheese (?!), and milk. The place does get a little busy as tourists file in to try the son’s coffee creation so it isn’t exactly a quiet place to sit and relax for a bit to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, but I mean it is a must-do for all you coffee-holics while in Hanoi!
Right next door to Hanoi’s Old Town cathedral is Café Eden - one of Hanoi’s most instagrammable spots. Featuring three floors, each with a different décor (not to mention a rooftop terrace overlooking the impressive St. Joseph’s Cathedral), Café Eden is eclectic enough to feature in almost everyone’s feed, while at the same time serving a coffee good enough to make you want to ask for seconds – which is great because it gives you a chance to try a different armchair on a different balcony!
Okay, so if Café Giang was set up by Nguyen’s son, Café Dinh was opened by his daughter and has a completely different feel. Hidden on the second floor of a bag shop with minimal signs, Café Dinh kind of feels like the big red X on a treasure map. Dinh’s egg coffee was awesome and the hidden entrance definitely felt as though it kept most passers-by - not to mention Hanoi’s chaos - away. That said, it is still more of a “refresh your caffeine levels” rather than a sit don and enjoy the time kind of place we felt like.
In Hanoi and looking for more coffee recommendations? Hanoihideaway is a great place to start and has some cracking pictures of the café’s to help you work out which aesthetic suits you best for each occasion!