Brew So Hard: A Guide to Hanoi Coffee Shops
There's more to Vietnamese coffee than the iced coffee with condensed milk. The rich coffee culture combined with the Hanoians' tendency to eat and drink at all hours meant that there were endless options for local coffee shops. And I was relieved that I didn't see one American coffee chain in the Old Quarter. So in the name of "doing as the locals do," we sipped, swirled and buzzed off the coffees we consumed during our five days in Hanoi. Here's a list our favourite Hanoi Old Quarter coffee shops below!
The best egg coffee can be found at 13 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
The first time we tried to go to Cafe Dinh, we couldn’t find it. Even with Google Maps, we missed the entrance. But we were determined to find it as Cafe Dinh is a local's favourite for the Hanoi's special: egg coffee. Up at 6 am (due to rumbling stomachs), with the Old Quarter streets relatively empty, we saw the small white sign just as two men walked through a doorway. We followed them through a clothing shop, up a narrow flight of stairs and found Cafe Dinh.
There was no $10,000 La Marzocco espresso machine, brick walls, or tattooed baristas pulling espresso shots. Instead, there was a petite, seventy year old lady who bossily instructed the men to set up chairs for us on the patio. It felt like a pre-war era cafe with peeling paint, miniature wooden chairs and faded black and white photos of Hanoians. From the patio, we enjoyed the view of Hoan Kiem Lake.
For 20,000 VND (1.12 CAD), we ordered their signature item, the egg coffee. It’s a dark rich coffee topped with a meringue-like froth of condensed milk whipped with egg yolk. A local told us to eat the thick sweet layer first (almost like tiramisu), before stirring the final bit in with the coffee. Hands down, this was my favourite coffee of the entire trip. It was my crack, and yes I've been in withdrawal since returning home.
It was definitely worth going early in the morning to enjoy the quiet and peace of the cafe. When we returned the next day in the mid-afternoon, it was hot and stuffy, packed with backpackers and with Maroon 5 was blaring from the speakers. The coffee was still delicious but we definitely didn’t linger.
It's succulent heaven at 2 Nhà Thờ, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Eden Coffee is a millennial plant lovers dream. Overlooking St. Joseph's Cathedral, it's three floors overflowing with greenery and brightly painted murals. The rooftop patio had a massive wire frame greenhouse and a view of the Hanoi skyline. But since I'm a wuss with humidity, we escaped to the shady succulent covered balcony on the second floor.
We ordered an iced coconut coffee and passionfruit tea with fresh mango slush. While the cafe was slightly more expensive than other local shops, the decor, space and quiet meant that we could read in peace. Or scroll through Instagram in my case, or check football scores in Jason's.
CỘNG CÀ PHÊ
Sip your coconut frappé and watch the traffic chaos at 116 Cầu Gỗ, Hàng Trống, Hà Nội
Cong Cà Phê was highly recommended by a lot of travel blogs. It's a string of popular coffee shops and according to the internet is decorated in a "military chic" style. The military green theme and kitschy army souvenirs were hipster approved - but all that matters is their coconut frappe. It's dark coffee blended with frozen coconut milk. While it's technically in the same frozen drink category as a Starbucks frappuccino, it's like comparing some blond guy at the gym to Chris Hemsworth. Yes, both may be blond males, but one is human and the other is a Norse god.
We sipped our drinks (frappe for me, 80 cent beer for Jason) on the second floor patio. From there, we could watch Hanoi’s chaotic traffic at its finest as the patio overlooked the five way traffic circle north of Hoan Kiem Lake. For more than hour, we watched older ladies with yokes on their shoulder calmly walk through the gaggle of motorbikes, taxis and trucks moving in every direction. Everyone honked, no one stayed in their lane. And yet, not one person on the road seemed fazed.
If you're easily stressed by near death situations and would still like to try their coffee, we also spent a morning at a quieter Cong Cà Phê location near St. Joseph's Cathedral.
TRANQUIL BOOKS AND COFFEE
Feel like you're in Brooklyn at 5 Nguyễn Quang Bích, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Tranquil Coffee is exactly as the name promises. It's a cozy, serene place to read and catch up on some work. If your ears are sore from the Old Quarter noise and your back is hurting from sitting on the tiny Vietnamese stools, Tranquil Coffee will soothe your North American soul with its familiarity. It's like a miniature Brooklyn coffee shop, with "regular" sized chairs, exposed brick and pour over coffee. Except there's no loud music or people typing self-importantly on their Macs.
We ordered the pour over coffee and an affogato. Jason said the pour over seemed pretty lackluster compared to the other types of coffee he'd be drinking. To me, you can't go wrong with an affogato and it did its job in keeping me (temporarily) full until we made it to dinner.
Even though we were chugging coffee like there out bodies in coffee, we still couldn't drink it all. Giang Coffee was the one that got away - it's another local favourite known for its egg coffee. When I return to Hanoi (& I plan to someday), it will be the top of my list!