Ho Chi Minh’s coffee culture
No one exactly knows the number of coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh. Aside from many fancy front coffees shops on large streets, there are countless ones in cul-de-sacs and even in very small, zigzagging alleys. The diversity and popularity of coffee shops here has resulted in a spiritual culture with its own specific characteristics in the daily life of the city.
Small street cafes are designed to serve those who wish to enjoy a quick cup of coffee in the morning before starting working. Regular customers are working people who come to get a caffeine fix while skimming through the headlines of a newspaper or chatting with friends before going to the office. It is the simple needs of these customers that have shaped the simplicity of small street coffee shops.
To run such a café, the owner need only equip his shop with a basket of glasses, a cooler, a thermos and some small plastic tables and chairs. There is very little expense needed.
In opposition to the simplicity of street cafes are the upmarket ‘working coffee shops.’ These elaborately-decorated shops are very quiet and equipped with wifi access.
Many customers, including freelancers, journalists, artists and stock investors view these coffee shops as their ideal working place. After finding a suitable table, they can work on their laptop all day, without being bothered by anyone, especially with lunches also available.
For those who wish to have a short nap after lunch time, they can visit a coffee shop in an alley just off Tran Quoc Thao Street, District 3. The second floor is decorated in a Japanese style with low tables and cushions. With small mattresses and pillows also available for any drinker made sleepy after a hard morning at the office.
Before taking a nap, customers can read a book from one of the bookshelves or tinkle the ivories of the piano in the corner to entertain or disturb fellow drinkers and sleepers.
Not all customers to coffee shops are addicted to the drink. Coffee is just one of many beverages served in cafés. Many Saigonese are regulars but have never tasted a drop of coffee in their life.
Visiting a coffee shop can be seen as a habit of many city residents. Young lovers go to cafés to stare at each other across the table. Businessmen meet each other to discuss transactions.
If a person is alone and does not know where to go or what to do, going to a coffee shop will always be his first choice.
Looking at the fancy cars or motorbikes parked in front of luxury coffee shops or a row of old motorbikes or bicycles in a small shabby cafes in small alleys, many wonder what Saigon would be like if without its coffee shop culture and, of course, caffeine.