5 Hip Cafés in Hanoi

The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi has an exciting assortment of specialty cafés.

BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Photos by Tanya Nanetti

On a recent trip to Vietnam, my partner and I chose to visit the capital city of Hanoi during the Lunar New Year celebrations (called Tet here), the most important holiday period in all of Vietnam.

Visiting Hanoi during the Tet celebrations is a magical experience, with the only drawback being that many cafés, restaurants, and bars close for vacations. But some specialty cafés remain open, ready to welcome you: You’ll find them so good that you will want to go back even after the festivities are over.

Here are five cafés worth a try!

Briefly on Earth is a popular spot where you can try local robustas or Ethiopian arabicas.

Briefly on Earth Coffee

Arriving in Hanoi in the early afternoon of Lunar New Year’s Eve, we found ourselves desperately searching for a good coffee in a city where everything already seemed closed for the big evening festivities. It seemed an impossible task until we stumbled upon the very cute Briefly on Earth Coffee, in a quiet alley just a few steps from the busy Hoàn Kiem Lake.

Classic Vietnamese coffee shop on the outside, with lots of small chairs crowded with locals on both sides of the street, and cozy hipster café inside (complete with a beautiful resident cat), Briefly on Earth’s menu has something for everyone—bold robusta beans with milk or condensed milk for more classic tastes, and a very tasty Ethiopia arabica for lovers of specialty coffee. We chose Ethiopia and it was one of the tastiest espressos we had in Hanoi.

Having breakfast with a view from the mezzanine.

Blackbird Coffee

We entered the Old Quarter location of Blackbird—a local roastery with three shops in town—in the late morning of New Year’s Day, hoping for decent coffee and some pastries for a snack. We found a delicious latte (based on a fully washed espresso made from locally grown arabica and Catimor beans) and a delicious croissant, served hot. Tempted, we ordered a second latte and a brownie, which were also delicious.

We decided to return for more, day after day, and we were never disappointed: the same delicious coffee every morning and a wide range of pastries to try. And already by the third morning, the super-nice baristas knew our coffee preferences. In addition, the coffee shop is cozy and very welcoming, with some chairs outside ready for people-watching and a nice mezzanine area perfect for relaxing by chatting or reading a book.

No wonder Blackbird immediately became our go-to spot for breakfast in the city!

Tranquil Books & Coffee offers a wide selection of books in Vietnamese and English, along with traditional coffee shop fare.

Tranquil Books & Coffee

Even before we arrived in Hanoi, various coffee-shop friends from all over Vietnam suggested that we should not miss a stop at Tranquil Books & Coffee, a small local chain of specialty-coffee shops with seven locations in the city. Though all different from each other, each Tranquil café has a few things in common: a cozy and welcoming location, tons of English and Vietnamese books on a variety of topics (available for reference), delicious coffee, and tasty pastries.

Our favorite Tranquil café in the Old Quarter—at 5 Nguyen Quang Bích Street—also boasts a piano to play and offers regular evening live music events. And in case the coffee shop is full, don’t be sad: You’ll find another Tranquil location at 8 Nguyen Quang Bích Str, just across the street.

Refined.’s unique aesthetic and expertly house-roasted coffees are not to be missed.

Refined.

If you want to be both hip and classy in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, don’t miss Refined., located at 2 Ngõ 57 Láng Ha, on the second floor of a design store not far from Hanoi Cathedral.

Minimalist, all-black, and low-key (with a small balcony overlooking the busy central street), Refined. offers a menu of high-quality home-roasted beans, perfectly prepared by skilled baristas.

And if you have the time, make the effort to make your way to one of Refined’s other locations, Phin Bar by Refined, beside the famous Temple of Literature. Here, in a new approach that applies new-wave coffee curation to classic Vietnamese coffee culture, baristas prepare pourovers (using the traditional Phin brewer) with locally grown robusta beans.

In addition, what sets Phin Bar apart from the usual coffee shop is its unique payment system, which sees visitors pay based on how they perceived the entire coffee experience. It’s a unique approach for unique coffee.

Though a bit off the beaten path, Un{titled} Espresso Bar was worth the trek.

Un{titled} Espresso Bar

In the week we spent in Hanoi, many local baristas suggested that we make the effort to get to Un{titled} Espresso Bar, a coffee shop a half-hour drive from Hanoi’s Old Quarter. We decided to visit it on our last morning in the city, finding that the suggestion was spot-on.

Un{titled} is housed in a small alleyway on the second floor of a private house (as is often the case in Vietnam), and the owners welcome customers as if it were their own home—and indeed it is.

There’s a place to leave your shoes downstairs and flip-flops available; there’s a small balcony to rest and more tables inside to use for work (or to pretend to); there are two super-friendly owners ready to chat; and there’s Toto, the family’s beautiful dog.

And of course there is coffee, roasted in-house and expertly brewed to your liking.

Even if you’re only in town for a short time, don’t forget Un{titled}: it’s definitely worth the trip up here to try one of the best coffees in town.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.

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