Vietnamese people are very sociable people. Perhaps to a tourist, they may appear to be uh…persistent. Walking around the streets in pretty much any village or city you visit in Vietnam, you will encounter the relentless pedalling of random wares and the annoyingly constant catchphrase “you buy, you buy!” But hey, if you’re patient enough (and navigating Vietnam will defo take a LOT of patience), you might instead experience a clever, witty and cheeky culture of people who love to get together to eat and drink. This sociable nature and love for food and drink manifests itself in the streets, where any empty street corner is filled with little plastic chairs and turned into a little coffee house or bar selling warm beers.
The coffee in Vietnam is no doubt influenced from the French – strong, dark and beautifully bitter. It is usually served with the Vietnamese twist of condensed milk and ice – “ca phe sua da” or black with ice “ca phe da”. You can also ask for it espresso style “ca phe den”.
On our search for coffee in Ha Noi, we stumbled upon a little shop called Huong Mai Cafe in the Old Quarter. They proudly announced that they were selling Weasel coffee. Weasel coffee in case you hadn’t heard, is the most expensive coffee in the world. The reason why it is so expensive is that it requires a little weasel to eat the coffee bean and poo it out. The particular weasels are only found in Indonesia and Vietnam. Since the weasels are rare, that means this coffee is rare too, and stupidly expensive. When we stumbled upon a cafe that sold weasel coffee, we were stoked.
However, we forgot that we were tourists. And the Vietnamese in their cheekiness, love a good little con. But anyways, they weren’t completely lying to us. Since weasel coffee became so famous around the world, Trung Nguyen Coffee – the most popular coffee brand in Vietnam – developed a chemical equivalent that emulated the effects the coffee beans have when passing through a weasel. They came up with a chemical process that was pretty darn close to the real thing, and patented it. See? I told you that we Vietnamese are clever and cheeky. And so, this is Trung Nguyen’s weasel brand coffee. Most cafes that claim to sell weasel coffee at a cheap price will probably be selling Trung Nguyen’s Weasel brand, which I guess is not completely lying.
But hey, don’t despair. This stuff is still pretty gosh darn good. It is wonderfully rich, aromatic with a hint of chocolaty flavours and complements the Vietnamese style of serving coffee with condensed milk. And at little shops like Huong Mai Cafe, you can ask to sample the coffee and you’ll be left alone to sit around for hours to chat and enjoy your beverage. You’ll no doubt meet other curious tourists coming in to ask about the weasel coffee and you can share the story of the clever Vietnamese coffee con which is easily forgiven after sampling the great cup of coffee.
Info: Huong Mai Cafe, 15 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter). Ha Noi, Vietnam
PH: 098 345 2848 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Vegetarian?] ok [Vegan?] no [Gluten free?] ok [Dairy free?] no
How much money to bring: US$1-2 for a cuppa, US$7-8 for a baggy of coffee (roughly…)
OK to bring a date? no
It’s closed on: open during the day
Don’t: feel bad about sitting around for hours. It’s part of cafe culture to sit around for hours and chat over coffees so you won’t get hassled. That way you can have time to sample the many different coffees they sell.
Do: ask to put the coffee beans in new, blank packaging if you want to take it to Australia or any other country with strict customs. Even though it’s not real weasel coffee, you might still have trouble taking it through customs if it has a ‘Weasel Coffee’ sticker on it.
Sounds like: Black Coffee – All Saints