I’m currently in Thailand, which, I appreciate, isn’t Vietnam, but the climate and general feel of Thailand very much reminds me of Vietnam, which puts me in mind of my trip there last year. I found a lot of great coffee in Vietnam, including Shin Coffee, a small roaster/coffee shop chain in Ho Chi Minh City. Shin was a recommendation from Vietnam Coffee Republic, which I’d visited the day before. However, on my way there, I’d already spotted Shin and added it to my “should investigate further” list.
Shin had caught my eye from the street, with the rather provocative “speciality coffee” written on the window. Add to this a tagline of “best coffee in town”, this suggests that either it is very, very good, or full of bullshit. Fortunately, it was the former. Shin roasts all its own coffee, all Arabica, including a range of Vietnamese blends and a few single-origins from both Vietnam and around the world. There’s a traditional espresso-based menu (using a blend of Ethiopian and Vietnamese coffee), plus V60, Syphon, Aeropress and Cafetiere, as well as traditional Vietnamese filter coffee. Shin was also the first place I visited in Vietnam that serves decaf.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Shin Coffee, on Nguyễn Thiệp in the heart of the old city, opened in 2015. The roastery and original coffee shop is just a few streets away, while there are several other branches, including one out by the airport. The narrow store front, with a single window on the right and recessed door on the left, hides a long, thin interior with a gloriously high ceiling (it’s probably taller than it is wide). The sense of space immediately hits you as you walk in, quite impressive for somewhere which is so narrow. The closest similar space that I’m aware of is Mrs Atha’s in Leeds, but with more nature light.
The interior is very on-trend, with exposed brick and plaster alternating along the left hand wall, while the dark, wooden counter dominates the right-hand side. The furniture is all dark wood, as are the floorboards, while there is a beautiful tiled area around the counter. Even the lighting is on-trend, with exposed bulbs in the window, spotlights high up on the ceiling and square lampshades hanging over the counter. It’s a stunningly beautiful interior, but in terms of look and feel, it could be any coffee shop, anywhere in the world. Importantly, for Ho Chi Minh City, it is air-conditioned.
A three-person window-bar is behind you on your right as you enter, with the counter coming next. There’s enough space between it and the window to fit in a row of three bar chairs, with five more down the side. Here you have a bird’s eye view of the pour-overs and syphons, which are made in front of you on the counter, plus there’s the La Marzocco Strada espresso machine against the back wall, directly opposite the last of the seats.
A row of four two-person tables line the left-hand wall opposite the counter, one for each of the plaster pillars (except the first, which has a set of retail shelves). Unusually, Shin has a beauty salon (a separate business) upstairs, which is accessed via a sweeping, open staircase at the back of the counter. This doubles back on itself, providing a lovely visual feature. Shin continues after the staircase, although the ceiling is lower back here, creating a cosy area with a long, communal table and a private room right at the back.
The service is excellent, with the staff greeting you as you enter before showing you to a table (or, in my case, the counter) where you are given a menu. There’s also a glass of water which is constantly topped up. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of western cakes and pastries, but otherwise it’s all about the coffee.
I started with a cappuccino, which was my first milky (as opposed to condensed milky) coffee of the trip. Served in a traditional 5.5oz cup, it was wonderfully rich and creamy, the coffee going well with the milk, although it felt a little anonymous.
Up until that point, I’d not had very good experiences with traditional Vietnamese coffee (made using a cup-top metal filter known as a cà phê phin), but I wasn’t ready to give up on it just yet. I figured that if I was going to find traditional cà phê phin that I liked, a good speciality coffee shop would be the ideal place, so I ordered one.
Made using a blend of Indonesian and Vietnamese coffee, it had an interesting taste. Rich, almost sweet, but not fruity, it was very unlike the Indonesian/Vietnamese pour-overs I’d had before and totally not what I was expecting. Very much to my surprise, I really liked it!
December 2018: Shin Coffee, Nguyễn Thiệp was a runner-up for the 2018 Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.
|13 NGUYEN THIEP • QUAN 1 • HO CHÍ MINH CITY • VIETNAM|
|http://www.facebook.com/ShinCoffeeVN||+84 98 902 43 62|
|Monday||07:30 – 23:00||Roaster||Shin Coffee (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 23:00||Seating||Tables, Window Bar, Counter|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 23:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||07:30 – 23:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||07:30 – 23:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:30 – 23:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||07:30 – 23:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Local||Visits||10th June 2017|
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