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Sarah

What is it about dingy nicotine stained walls, plastic seats, fly blown tv's slung high up out of the reach of customers nicotine stained fingers that is so appealing. I love these joints. Give me a cafe sua in the pleasant embrace of their grimy dinginess over the studied casualness of Starbucks any day of the week year or century. Not sure about the cafe trung da though, sounds remarkably like egg-nogg.

pieman

Never seen this. Very interesting. Although I'm not tempted. Is it a northern thing? That's one classy TV cabinet.

omih

I'm not squeamish about most things. I'll quite happily eat chicken but uncooked egg seems a bit dodgy too me.

Ill stick with my cafe sua da for the time being. Then again I have problems once the really cold Hanoi weather sets in. Not fond of those little cups of strong sweet coffee, so I normally opt for a half pint glass of hot tea. But it doesn't quite hit the spot.

Sorry to be a philistine on this but I have to admit I year when its cold for the "massimo" style big cardboard cups with their lids that take you half a morning to chug through.

Can't Cighland Coffee, Hapro or Trung Nguyen get on to this? I think KOTO definately should.

Mr. NoStarWhere

OMIH, I hear ya. I've been wanting big cups of take away coffee for the longest time. I hate to see Starbucks come here but... unless someone else gets on the big coffee cup train, I don't know, I'd hate it a little bit less.

That being said, Highlands does serve a decent Double Regular. It's in a big mug. And, at least in Saigon, you can now get take away cups. Only problem is... it takes upwards of 5 minutes sometimes to make the coffee. And it's a pain to park your park, go in, and wait 5 minutes.

Thankfully where I work brews a pot every morning. And I'm nearly always the lone one with the huge glass of coffee while everyone sticks to tradition and rocks the tiny shot of coffee with condensed milk.

I'm moving back to the states soon and that's one thing I'm looking forward to... big cups of coffee, though after living here for over a year, it will probably all taste weak.

Mr. NoStarWhere

I remember having this a couple year's back (same place). I feared it but in the end, it just tasted like a capuccino. I had nightmares about what a raw eggs in coffee would look like but from I remember, they just whip up the egg white, like they would with milk. Is this correct?

Sticky

Guys, I'm afraid I'm with Sarah on this one. The proliferation of the kind of coffee you yearn for represents to me the big bad shadow of globalisation. All of those big coffee chains have killed so many small businesses, at least that is the case in Australia. Why is big always better? The coffee culture in Vietnam is remarkably interesting, the people in the industry well-informed. They do coffee differently here and I'll go so far as to say that, across the board, the coffee is consistently better in Vietnam than any other place I've been to. Admittedly the lack of technology means less can go wrong. How many times back in your old countries did you get a burnt watery pissweak coffee? How many times is the espresso machine being worked by a 16 year old who wouldn't know a good coffee if it jumped up and bit them on the arse?
Sorry I'm a bit of a pedant when it comes to coffee - a previous life in the industry has caused this rant!

As far as the egg in the brew goes, it's not on the menu at many cafes, Pieman, and I'm not sure if it's a weird Northern affliction. I'll go back and interrogate one day soon. Let me just say there was nothing confronting about the experience at all. The texture was tops!

HanoiMark

Speaking of Northern/Southern things, do they do the egg in soda thing up here in Hanoi too? I've only ever had it in Vietnamese restaurants back home in Canada and they are mostly Saigonese style joints. Tastes like an egg-noggy fizz. Not half bad actually.

omih

You're missing my point. I don't want Starucks, Costa Coffee or all the rest of them.

I just want a big cup of coffee.

Now if the choice was between small coffees and no Starbucks or big coffees and Starbucks then i would gladly make do with the smaller cups and keep the corporates out of Vietnam.

But since when has size of coffee been about globalisation? I want a big cup of coffee for the same reason that I sometimes want a big bottle of water. Namely that's what I feel I need. It has absolutely nothing to do with globalisation.

I used to drink in this little place back home in Newcastle. Run by Italians, adjacent to art house cinema and their massive cappucino would see me through a newspaper and a couple of cigarettes.

I am well aware of the coffee houses put out of business as a result of Starbucks and the like. For the record I don't drink at the places back home. And yes, I have read No Logo. I even attended a lecture by Naomi Klein at the Leftfield stage at Glastonbury. Working, as I was, for a brand consultancy at the time, I reckon there is every chance I wouldn't be in Vietnam if it wasn't for that book. It forced me to re-evaluate what I was spending my working life doing.

But I fail to equate a large coffee with the forces of globalisation. I just want a drink that lasts a little bit longer.

And personally I don't think Vietnamese coffee is better than certain coffees elsewhere it's just different that's all. And as I said I love a good cafe sua da. But I do get tired of that mocha-ish Vietnamese coffee and occasionally I wouldn't mind a bitter Italian blend. Is that so bad?

Oh and one more thing about Vietnamese coffee. Vietnam was urged to grow coffee by the consultants and the money men of the world. The result? Well the traditional coffee growers of Costa Rica and Guatemala are seeing the price of their crop dropping year on year as Vietnamese coffee floods the market. There is huge hardship as a result of Vietnam's cash crop.

So there's globalisation there too. It's not all about Starbucks.

Mr. NoStarWhere

I was being sarcastic about saying I'd accept a Starbucks here if it meant I could get a bigger coffee.

I love Vietnamese coffee. I just want it in a bigger glass. At work I drink Vietnamese coffee, thick black and oily, but I also fill up a huge glass with it. Call it a cultural-hybrid, like coffee itself which, and I may be wrong, but I do not think it's native to Vietnam so its being here is a result of globalization in the first place.

p.s. I have read No Logo too, and enjoyed it, though I must admit, these days I find Naomi Klein a bit too pretentious for my tastes. I think she got swept a bit too much in the Seattle protests and still hasn't come down from the high.

Sticky

I watched the development of the 'big coffee juggernaught' at very close quarters a few years ago. A big coffee was not even a concept before aforementioned franchises arrived on the scene. You got a cappucino in a cup, a latte in a glass and an espresso in a small cup - that was the range at your average cafe. I will always associate the development of big coffee consciousness with the sprouting of those mobs. Suits running around with their giant take away coffee cups filled with adulterated drinks full of syrup and whipped cream. It hurt me at the time - we had people walk out because we didn't have big take away cups, "like Starbucks"!
Sorry if I offended anybody - it wasn't a personal attack on anyone's preferences, just a little rant about how that whole big coffee explosion gives me the craps.
Come to think of it, sometimes only a small coffee makes me want to go to the toilet!!!!

Hanoimark - haven't seen the soda eggy thing anywhere. Let me know if you do. I will go back for the beer egg arrangement at Cafe Giang, too. That's gotta be some kind of hangover cure, right?

Mr. NoStarWhere

"...we had people walk out because we didn't have big take away cups..."

There's a lesson there. Trung Nguyen or any ole' average little coffeeshop, get takeaway cups. There is a small hole-in-the-wall cafe near my house in Saigon. Very small. It's someone's living room and they have two little plastic tables set up for customers. BUT they recognize that some people get their coffee to go so they have plastic cups for this purpose. Simple but brilliant. Easy to do and squashing any demand for me to run down to Highlands (or future Starbucks)) for my takeaway cup.

And, I suppose people can (and probably should) always carry around their own coffee cups to cut down on waste.

As for big coffee, I just don't see what's so hard about filling the "dripper" to the top, or getting a bigger one. Just my two dong.

Anyways, I hear ya, I love my local coffeeshops, so long as I can occassionally get 'em to go, and get enough to last me two drinks.

omih

Oh and the latte in a glass. That's another thing that winds me up.

Only in Australia as far as I am aware. So who is doing the cultural imperialism? I've been constantly wound up by Australians ranting on about lattes and glasses and sniffing at it in cups.

Bizarre as it may seem, I don't believe that Australia was the birthplace of coffee. Not entirely sure where was but the market has changed, moved on, altered, grown etc. That's life. I hate all that Starbucks crap too but to suggest that wanting a large coffee is tantamount to supporting globalisation is ridiculous.

As for a the coffee explosian. I remember Bob Geldof saying something about this - he said as much as he hated it you couldn't get a decent cup of coffee anywhere in Britain for years and now you can. And yes Starbucks may have put companies out of business - but it has also created a market that was ignored for decades.

Coffee is here in Vietnam as a result of globalisation. If you're against globalisation then I suggest you support the farmers of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatamala and stop buying the stuff.

But one good way of stopping the Starbucks flourishing in Vietnam is to realise that some people may want a large coffee. I'm not suggesting they use Nescafe, add ice cream, and put a cherry on top. But is wanting a large coffee too much to ask for?

Even if you're wearing a suit? Or is their a casual dress code for coffee?

Oh and seem to recall Trung Nguyen trying to open up elsewhere in the world? Is that okay, or is that globalisation too?

Sticky

I'm unsure about what you're inferring about cultural imperialism but the tone of your comment suggests that you think I'm trying to wind you up. That is not the case. I am Australian but not in the least bit nationalistic nor do I try to shove my opinions down other peoples' throats. It was just my take on how that phenomenon personally affected me.

pieman

Ooh... lively in here innit?

TBH - I'm not sure folk who like Vietnamese coffee know much about it. That's not a snobbish thing. But like OMIH says it's Mocha/choclatey. There's zero subtlety to it. Just a freaking caffiene brick to the head. I drink one cup a day. And I stick to only Arabica beans. Most Vina Coffee is Robusta which equals bollocks in a cup.

Couple of other things. I was watching a Vietnamese programme about coffee a while back. the narrator said in Vietnamese, and I quote, "With Vietnamese coffee. We have no reason to be jealous of the Italians." Cough... Hunh?? yeah right...

Secondly, last New year we held a dinner party. One of the guests was/is the manager of one of the biggest coffee plantations in Vinaland. To summarize what was an interesting debate, he said Vietnamese coffee is shit, but it's cheap shit and we make stacks of cash from selling cheap shit to other people who package and sell our cheap shit all over the world. He also added that Vietnam does not possess the best geography for making quality coffee. Not enough suitable land at the correct altitude apparently. Altitude is very important for growing high grade beans.

So, whenever people la-la about how marvellous Vietnamese coffee is I'm not sure they actually know what they're talking about.

omih

My apologies - not trying to wind anyone up. Nor get personal. What I was trying to point out is that markets change. Australia decides it wants to sell lattes in glasses. Fine. Vietnam decides it want to grow and sell coffee on a large scale. Fine.

People want large coffees. Fine. Globilisation is bigger than simply selling large coffees. Without it there would be no coffee here.

I am not an inverted snob about Vietnamese food. Some of it is wonderful. Some of it is (and whisper it quietly) just plain bad. Especially in Hanoi. I voiced a personal opinion that I would like to be able to buy a large coffee in Hanoi.

I don't think I have ever been to a Starbucks in my life. I didn't particularly like the suggestion that because I wanted a large coffee I was suddenly selling Vietnam's soul to the corporates.

But if there is a market for large coffees it will happen. And there is no reason why it shouldn't happen in the little hole in the wall places. They are not selling some caffiene birthright. It's just change.

One of the most fascinating things about Vietnam is the pace of change. In many ways they have handled it very well and kept the spirit of the place. In other ways they have handled it terribly badly - in particular the systematic wrecking of the environment.

It will be a very sad day when Starbucks, McDonalds and all sweep into Vietnam but i am sure it will happen. I for one will do my best to avoid them.

I work for an organisation that teaches streetkids to make, amongst other things, burgers. And they go on to build careers in the hospitality industry. Now flipping a few burgers is not exactly their cultural heritage - but it's better than shoe shining and sleeping under cardboard.

But I have given it a lot of thought and have decided that the ends justify the means.

I guess my point is this. Nothing stays still. Everything changes. And for the most part things are changing for the better here. But nothing happens in isolation and Vietnam, as it opens up, will be affected by many other parts of the world.

And I'd still love a big coffee.

Sticky

I think the sublety in a coffee is difficult to find wherever you are, Pieman, unless you know the right places to go, where cafe proprietors train or have their baristas trained properly in the use of the machine and grinder. Such a lot of knowledge and practice is required to pull all of the variables together. Grind has to be altered according to climatic conditions, the crema should be gold not white, the milk must be heated to a certain temperature, it has to swirl in the jug while it's being steamed, it has to be fresh milk for each coffee, the properties of the milk are seasonal depending on what the cows are grazing on - no shit, it's like rocket science. My point was that I think that the way coffee is served here means there is less that can be ballsed up in the preparation of coffee, and while the actual bean blend may not be to everyone's liking, the chances of getting a consistently prepared coffee are not bad.

Sticky

OMIH - Get that big coffee outlet going on at Koto! The new location, a crack in the wall churning out coffees, you'll drag in bucket-loads!

omih

Strangely - my suggestions for large coffee at KOTO have gone down as well with KOTO as they have done with Sticky Rice.

You Aussies really know how you like your coffee and it appears that large coffee is so not de rigeur. Anyway - yesterday I happened by Le Pub and ordered a cappucino. Like KOTO they serve both Vietnamese and Italian coffee.

I just get tired of sucking up the froth to find half a teaspoon of liquid underneath.

A mug - favoured by us Brits - is also a suggestion that had all Australian eyes to heaven here.

Vive la differance I guess. But I've just come in on the back of a xe om. And I am way to Newcastle to be wearinga jacket or jumper just yet. But I'm sipping a Tra Lipton with my Hoa Sua Pain Chocolate. Would rather have had a big coffee.

omih

Oh and enjoy this blog. Are they serious?

http://starsnow.blogspot.com/

Robert Nussbaum

I found this site and blog on google because i searched for "egg coffee Hanoi". Just why did I do that? Because that coffee was simply fantastic! I see the pictures, it is the same place that I had the egg coffee. Remarkable. Yes the texture is smooth and velvety. The taste is a bit like a coffee custard. Not so sweet as the typical cafe sua da/nhom (I always tell them to only put a little condensed milk in). I travel the world. I must say that VietNam has not only the best coffee, but consistantly the best not matter how upscale or roadide the joint is. I like the typical mug of coffee at times too. Learn the language a bit, and get a cup of hot water (mot li nuoc nhom) when you order your hot coffee. Just add hot water to taste. Don't expect a pre-heated mug.
Now, anyone got the recipe for the egg coffee?

Kathy K

After searching high and low for a recipe for egg coffee/cafe trung with no success, I asked a couple of people living in Hanoi. It is super easy. One egg beaten long and hard with a bit of sugar. Put on top of your coffee and deeeeelicious! I just made my first one now and it is perfect.

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