Last week, I decided to make it a mission to drink all of the coffee that Ho Chi Minh City (née Saigon) had to offer. Thanks to the folks at Adventure Faktory (which you should definitely check out), I had the perfect guide. And on top of that, exactly 36 hours to further my caffeine dependency. I was completely successful. Sticking to my feet and the super hip hood of District Môt (trans: District One), I set off on two mornings for a steady stream of espressos and slowly dripping coffees. I made a rookie mistake of ordering a latte early in the mission and learned quickly that all coffee intake should be short and sweet, lest they wind up feeling like a meal. And you can’t have that when all the street food is waiting for you outside every cafe.
My first stop was the obligatory L’Usine. All because of a certain Melbourne-based stylista (you know who you are). I’ve been waiting to come here for years (well, two), and it met all expectations. Like all cafes in emerging Asia, it’s a great respite from the crazy heat and the one billion motorbikes waiting outside. L’Usine’s Le Loi location is situated just next to Benh Thanh Market and is a perfect place to gather oneself after a bunch of souvenir shopping, or alternatively, to while away a morning with the laptop while bathed in perfect light. Plus, they’ve got even more shopping downstairs.
Practically around the corner from L’Usine and up the kind of staircase that hip personified lives in, is the Workshop. I would say this is where the serious coffee people go. Aeropress, Japanese drip, single source, all the key words are there. They probably have delicious food too. But all I could focus on was the second espresso I had within two hours, and the amazing design of the space. The shared farmer’s tables, gorgeous light (can you sense a theme going?), and very sensibly placed electrical outlets make spending a morning (or more) here even easier.
La Rotonde is just five minutes away from the Workshop and yet another place with massive windows. I just can’t get over places that favour natural light. Coffee is a simple pleasure here. Well cushioned seating made the slowly dripping coffee easier to wait for. And it gave more time to fall for all of the the historical accents housed under the cafe’s arched ceilings.
A must go in Saigon for all design loving folk is 3A Station. But once you get there after a ten minute walk under 40°C heat, you’ll need some time to recalibrate. Kujuz provides all of this behind its wall of window shutters. Under the guise of a canteen, they serve delicious and simple Vietnamese cuisine and local coffee, and they’ll even let you bring in cupcakes from neighbouring Pacey’s. Basically, if you’re planning a couple of hours of shopping some of Saigon’s coolest designers, get your caffeine and your sugar here first.
I drank a lot of coffee on this trip. And it was all delicious and well worth the shakes. Saigon can get a bad rap for being a ball of intensity. But in reality, it’s not the fast paced, unstoppable throng of motorbikes that I experienced upon first inspection just seven years ago. And having all of this delicious specialty coffee housed in design savvy homes was only the tip of everything I had to learn about this place.
Oh, and here’s a map!
Come back next week to see everything I ate and bought in Saigon!
All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.