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Oct 25, 2022 / 17:46

Hanoi Old Quarter’s cafes

Enjoying coffee in the Old Quarter area is a hobby of Hanoians, regardless of social status or character. Here are the four oldest cafes in Hanoi compiled by The Hanoi Times.

Hanoi is most charming in the fall. The sunlight is honey-golden and shiny, pouring down from above, melting the hearts of people on the street. Wandering sunlit roads, many think that not heading out to the Old Quarter for a cup of coffee would waste Hanoi’s autumn.

The cup of rich flavor piping hot drink - the “ca phe trung” or egg coffee, a Hanoi speciality that nowhere else in the world could be found. Photo: Vietnam.Recorder

By a window shimmering in the early morning sunlight, breathing in the mildly cold air and sipping a cup of hot coffee evokes a strange feeling of peace. On the street are ceaseless flows of people, but the Old Quarter cafes still quietly welcome their visitors, both frequent and new.

Although this area is not a coffee hub, it’s still crowded for many people. Enjoying coffee in Hanoi Old Quarter feels like an unalienable habit. Going to the coffee shop to give each other a warm embrace and start a new day full of energy - this drink somehow seems to be a routine.

Coffee devotees often recommend to each other the traditional coffee shops known as the “Modern Hanoi City’s Quartet”, namely Nhan, Nhi, Giang and Dinh. These are famous for their cafes which conquer drinkers’ taste buds, not to mention the stories behind the coffee cups.

Nhan Café was born in 1946 and has been among the top in the capital for almost eight decades. It was opened in an evacuation area of the patriotic Hanoians during the war of resistance against the French. The shop is the brainchild of the married couple Nguyen Van Thi and Tran Thi Thanh Ky.

Nhan Cafe owns a particular recipe to create its fantastic coffee. Photo courtesy of the cafeteria.

Thi and his two friends - The and Nhan - researched coffee making, from selecting the coffee beans to roasting and grinding them by hand, before creating a familiar brand that the three men agreed to name Nhan Café.

Although they were the three co-founders, only Thi - Ky's family directly handled the research, processing and marketing stages. Today in Hanoi, Thi and Ky's children and grandchildren have opened nearly a dozen coffee shops under the Nhan Cafe brand in streets such as Hang Hanh, Lang Ha, Nguyen Thai Hoc or De La Thanh. Now, though the business has now grown into a production company supplying coffee to restaurants and supermarkets instead of an ordinary coffee shop, the quality and taste of the brand's coffee remain unchanged.

Stepping into Nhi Café on No.2 Hang Ca Street, people who are not used to stuffiness will feel a little strange but easily recognize the homey and robust coffee flavor. Nhi Café creates its unique feature with pre-made filter coffee in Chinese teapots, typically used to keep green tea.

Each coffee cup requires two teacups of coffee from the teapot, poured into a glass cup, and whipped together with sugar and milk before ice is added.

Moreover, while other coffee shops have changed their design and appearance over time, Nhi Café is different, as the tables, chairs, cups, and spoons here are still old, somewhat shabby items. This simplicity seems to hold onto the memories of each customer differently.

The simple yet delicious iced coffee of Nhi Café. Photo courtesy of the cafeteria

Sharing the same preference for nostalgic space, many people choose the familiar Giang Café to savor coffee.

Opened by Nguyen Van Giang in 1946, when he was a bartender for the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi 5-star hotel, the coffee bar is also the birthplace of egg coffee in Vietnam. Despite changing the location twice, the recipe for egg coffee is almost unchanged from the early days 70 years ago, with the main ingredients being egg yolk, Vietnamese coffee powder, sweetened condensed milk, butter and cheese.

Currently, the Giang Café brand, whose shops are nestled on Nguyen Huu Huan and Yen Phu streets, has become popular among a large number of domestic and foreign tourists, especially when it topped the list of “17 Ways to Drink Coffee Around the World” by Buzzfeed.

There is another special cafe with neither nameplate nor facade, tottering on a small house’s second floor on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. To reach the bar, people must go through a bag store and climb up an old staircase with its stains of time. Dinh Cafe's egg coffee came along after Giang Cafe's, as Dinh Cafe's owner, Bich- is a daughter of Giang. Still, it is becoming increasingly popular because of its rich taste, with cocoa being boiled and mixed with egg yolk, so the cocoa flavor is fragrant and sweet.

At Giang Café, the cup of hot egg coffee rests in a small bowl of hot water to maintain its temperature. Photo: Vietnam.Recorder

Dinh Café is loved by young people thanks to its ancient space since the architecture of the old French-built mansion is preserved. As a typical example of the Old Quarter’s “small corners”, the distinctive attraction of the coffee shop is its fantastic view over the Old Quarter as well as the green space of Sword Lake.

In modern life, the long-standing cafes are the homey museums that keep the beauty and traditions of the capital. Thanks to them, no matter where Hanoians go, the city is always in their hearts, just like the fragrance of a hot coffee cup on an autumn morning.

International visitors to Hanoi enjoy coffee at Dinh Café. Photo courtesy of the cafeteria