At last! A coffee shop in Vietnam not recommended by either Bex (Double Skinny Macchiato) or Simon (Fancy A Cuppa). Instead, today’s Coffee Spot, The Caffinet, was recommended by the wonderful folks at Oriberry Coffee (and, in fairness to Bex/Simon, it opened after their respective visits). On a busy street to the northeast of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, it’s another with a modest exterior that hides a delightful, and spacious, interior.
Spread over two floors, The Caffinet (which translates loosely as The Coffee House) opened in 2016 with the aim of serving Vietnamese-grown coffee and tea with a distinctly western-style. It does this using coffee from La Viet, a coffee shop/roaster in the Dalat coffee-growing region of Vietnam, and, tea from Long Dinh, which comes from Vietnam’s Lam Dong tea-growing province.
Unusually, there’s no hulking espresso machine at The Caffinet. Instead, espresso drinks are provided by the ROK hand espresso machine, which sits quietly on the counter. This is joined by a bewildering array of pour-over and immersion brewing methods. I think that the only one I didn’t see was the Clever Dripper! Finally, since this is Vietnam, there’s the traditional Vietnamese cup-top filter. Naturally, all the beans are for sale.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Tucked between several similar establishments on a short, busy street, I walked right past The Caffinet, even though I was looking for it! Hidden behind the ubiquitous rows of parked scooters, the modest, square front is entirely glass, door on the left, window, behind which is a display of coffee/coffee-making equipment, to the right. There’s also a neat pair of wooden chairs joined together by a central table in front of the window if you want to sit outside.
Instead, the layout’s similarly modest. There’s a bench against the right-hand wall, with three round tables, additional seating provided by stools. The left-hand wall, meanwhile, has retail shelves. Together these occupy the front half of the store, while the large counter dominates the back. On the right-hand side, it runs length-ways, with seven stools for seating, perfect if you want some free coffee-making tips.
However, that’s not all. Behind a sliding door in the wall opposite the counter, a flight of stairs leads to a delightful upstairs seating area. There are three square, two-person tables against an exposed-brick wall to your right, while to the left, a bench runs the length of the wall, with a 14-person communal table. At the front, a narrow window and door open onto an equally narrow balcony overlooking the street.
The Caffinet has three choices of coffee, all from the Dalat region of Vietnam. For espresso and traditional Vietnamese filter, there’s a Robusta/Arabica blend or a dark-roasted Arabica, while on filter, there’s a single-origin Arabica bean, a mix of Bourbon and Typica varietals. I started with this, which had the lightest roast of any coffee I’d seen since Ho Chi Minh City. After a discussion with my barista, we agreed on the Kalita filter as a preparation method. Served in thin-necked carafe, with a cup on the side, plus a glass of water, it was a delicate, subtle coffee, with great balance. Holding its own as it cooled, it tasted just as good cold as on the first sip. I was sufficiently impressed to buy a bag of the beans to bring home with me.
Continuing my exploration of traditional Vietnamese coffee, I had a Vietnamese coffee over ice. Unfortunately, I was coming down with a cold, a leaving present from Hanoi, and The Caffinet’s air-conditioning (which would have been welcome on any other day) was making me come out in chills. Instead, I took my coffee and sat outside, where the iced-coffee and the warm, humid air (which, ironically, was doing wonders for my sinuses!) were the perfect combination.
I selected the 100% Arabica option, sitting at the counter to watch it being made. The recipe used just 10g coffee and 100g water (previously I’d seen 20g coffee to 140g water), which resulted in a much shorter extraction time. The coffee was filtered over a glass and then poured over ice to serve, which I liked since it gave me a chance to try the hot coffee first.
This was excellent, not as syrupy or sweet as others I’d tried. Of the traditional Vietnamese coffees I’d had, this came closest to a “normal” pour-over both in taste and consistency. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it cold, which brought out more of the flavours, but without the unique taste that cold brew coffee has (which I don’t like). That said, I’d still have preferred it hot: put simply, it was too nice to pour it over ice, much as it would have been too nice to drown in condensed milk.
I’ve leave you with the happy news that a second Hanoi branch of The Caffinet is opening soon.
|5 HÀNG MAM • HOÀN KIEM • HÀ NOI • VIETNAM|
|http://thecaffinet.vn||+84 94 8743 168|
|Monday||08:00 – 22:00||Roaster||La Viet (hand espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 22:00||Seating||Tables, Counter, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 22:00||Food||No|
|Thursday||08:00 – 22:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||08:00 – 22:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 22:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 22:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||23rd June 2017|
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