The Hanoians drink a lot of the dark, caffeinated beverage and prefer sipping their stronger blends outside in front of a small shop with some sweet milk and a spoonful of sugar. Every morning, on hot days of summer and cold and dull days of winter, you can easily see some here with a cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
For many Hanoians, the most important factor of a café is not its luxuriousness but the quality of the product. Old people love cafés which have been around a long time, located on old streets or inside deep alleys. Office workers like cafes with romantic and quiet styles like those in Pho Co Quarter. Young people prefer the noisy and busy atmosphere of modern and luxury or pavement cafés.
Basking with sunshine in the afternoon when there’s less noise from automobiles, Hanoi ends a day and opens a new paradise for culture experiences. Taking over a legacy from bygone years with the involvement of an irresistible French factor, the Vietnamese have embraced café culture in a great way. There are so many famous coffee shops in Hanoi, like Nang café (6 Hang Bac), Nhan (39D1 Hang Hanh), Quat (Quan Thanh), Quynh (Bat Dan) to Giang (Hang Gai and Lam (60, 91 Nguyen Huu Huan)… Chairs are small, literally child-sized, and are sometimes made of blue plastic or painted wood. The tables are covered with glasses of ca phe den (black coffee) or ca phe sua da (iced coffee), which come with their own picturesque drip top. Not only just for connoisseurs, these places are idea for having gossip, meeting old friends, talking to pass time of day, stealing precious moments for romantics …
A good example of the authentic Hanoi cafés is Hang Hanh, an atmospheric slender street veering off the city’s central Hoan Kiem Lake. In the afternoon, one may find himself inexplicably drawn to its’ wall-to-wall cafés which unfold below the shady boughs of leafy trees. Here, the annoying young and cool Vietnamese often sit and watch the world in front of their eyes. In late afternoon, with the last rays of sunshine, the place starts to buzz. At weekends, it is positively heaving with dating couples or gangs of youths desiring to be couples.
If this sounds too frenetic, a more subdued place like Giang Café can be chosen! Though situated in a busy tourist shopping street, the tiny confined Giang Café attracts the serious permanent coffee lovers and soccer addicts.
My next stop is Lam café – the perfect refuge for artists, poets and thespians to refresh their minds for creativeness. Situated on a shaded street, it will bring you the relaxed moments by the simple but artistically-decorated bamboo furniture, colorful framed oil paintings on the wall, ceiling fans as well as wooden table with a lot of tiny china teapots.
The resurgence of tourism to these fragrant shores has led to the resurrection of the wonderful old ambience of former colonial times in many Hanoi cafés. Delightful cafés are now housed in elegant French-style villas with exquisite silk prints, meticulously polished wooden floors and pot-planted courtyards or serve delicious food all day and evening. Street cafés like the La Terrasse du Metropole on Ngo Quyen and Le Phung Hieu or Highlands Café, 84 Nguyen Du are the typical examples!