When Melissa and I travelled to Vietnam in 2019, we both agreed we’ve never visited a place quite like Hoi An.
The history, the town’s impressive preservation, the blend of world-class street food from the north and the south (banh mi, bun cha, pho, cau lau, cha ca). The old ladies with crooked smiles, black teeth, no teeth, carrying their fruit baskets across town. Glowing lanterns being lowered down into the river. And the coffee, oh the coffee.
Most travellers plan for Hoi An as a day trip. But we thought we’d do something a little different and stay there for twelve whole nights, and build our month in Vietnam around this city. The ambition was to let the taste of rural Vietnam soak into our skin, and beyond that, live somewhat of a normal life for a couple of weeks.
In many ways, it’s unfair to write about speciality coffee in Vietnam. Not because it’s not good — it’s excellent. But rather, because traditional Vietnamese coffee is just so wonderful in its own right that it feels sacrilegious to propose a contemporary alternative. In many ways, reviewing speciality coffee in Vietnam draws parallels with the modern coffee scene in Italy. There’s the way the Romans have done it for thousands of years, and then there’s this new approach shaking up the industry.
It’s a nice problem to have. Some days we really lived like locals, sipping our bitter, dark-ground ca phe da swimming in a pool of condensed milk. Other days, we needed a slide of home, and that’s where speciality coffee shops came onto our radar.
Let me be frank. Our no-holds-barred, unreserved favourite coffee shop in Hoi An was The Espresso Station. Located down a rather serendipitous laneway, a little outside the old town, the Hoi An branch offers a peaceful, air-conditioned and tucked-away surprise away from the enclaves of tourists.
We came for the coffee, and the coffee was outstanding. The staples were great, but what really impressed us was their range of specialities — a decedent affogato which needs little explanation, and the Espresso Station Signature, a drink that mesmerised us with its frozen coffee ice cubes, topped with self-service fresh milk.
Their flat white was on the money too. I become a bit of a fussy child when it comes to these, but truth be told, it can be hard to find a real flat white in Asia — 150ml cup, double espresso shot and thin micro foam — but these guys nailed it.
With most drinks at the very friendly price of 50 VND, this became our go-to coffee spot to cool down in the afternoons.
Espresso Station can be found at 28/2 Trần Hưng Đạo, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam. They also have a branch in Da Nang.
Another place we came to enjoy was on the other side of town, half-way between the old city and the beach. Affectionately called Rosie’s Cafe, this sweet spot focuses on organic breakfasts and brunch, but throws in more than adequate coffee to complete the table. Highly recommended when you need you just don’t feel like a warm bowl of pho at nine o’ clock in the morning (Pro tip: there’s also an excellent gym and protein smoothie bar around the corner called SuperFit).
Rosie’s Cafe is located at 2 Mạc Đĩnh Chi, Cẩm Sơn, Hội An, Quảng Nam 560000, Vietnam.
Hoi An is a little corner of the planet that’s having a golden moment. Mind you, with the hoards of tourists pouring in, it probably won’t last forever.