One thing’s for sure, coffee is a more popular in Vietnam than in Malaysia. I think it is safe to say that if you do not sample any local coffee while visiting Vietnam, your trip is in vain. Can you imagine someone visiting Malaysia and not having teh tarik? Pretty much the same thing.
I have had coffee on a stool by the road side, restaurant and classy cafe in Hanoi. And I can safely say that the cheapest and most commonly found version – simple no frills black coffee with condensed milk tasted the best for me. Think of it as your average Hainan kopi o but with a blacker, thicker and smoother body, and a lot sweeter too. This could be found anywhere in the city even at the stair entrance of someone’s home, because what is more cost saving than operating a business at your very own front door? Also, there’s something about sipping a hot or cold cuppa on those mini stools while watching people go on about their daily lives.
Anyway, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t explore the other more ‘appropriate’ cafes. Some are very popular with the locals serving up their own speciality coffee. For example, coffee with egg. Reng Reng Cafe is one of the many charming mid-range cafes around. It is a family business in which the owner grows his own coffee and the beans are then roasted by his brother. The latte art still needs a lot of work, though.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter consists of nearly 40 streets, forming a maze packed with shops dedicated to specific trades. One street could be lined up with hardware shop but at another turn you would find yourself looking at a row of gold shops, or shops that specialize in trading coffee powder – like the one shown above. Coffee filters are indispensable to the local community and could be a nice souvenir to bring back home.