The first time visiting a coffee house in Hanoi was when a friend led me to an extremely small and low-roofed house. I had no idea that I was entering one of the four most famous local coffee houses in the thousand-year capital. There was neither a signboard nor a name. And the first floor was engulfed in backpacks, plastic red chairs, and many little things. Little did know, there was another world behind those cranky, old and dark stairs leading to the second floor. Everything there seemed to have stayed still since the French Indochina age, when the house was still a glamorous villa painted earthen yellow with white and black tints, when people did not have to drink coffee in a hurry to keep up with the modern industrialized pace.
It felt so nostalgic as I walked into the foggy room filled with incense, touched the stained yellow walls, and looked at people waiting for every drop of the brown liquid from the ill-shaped filter. The clock reversed to bring back what once was ours: slow living. Slowing down let us savor life more. As a Saigonese, I got used to the fast speed of life in bustling coffee shops which were crowded with groups of friends talking, laughing and taking photos; hence, I was so surprised when the coffee house was so silent despite of being packed. There was something in the air that made us whisper. It was a tranquil yet strange experience, drinking coffee in an ancient house in Ha Noi.
The most special drink of most long-standing cafes In Ha Noi was, of course, egg-coffes'. Egg coffee was a rich and creamy dairy-like concoction made by whipping egg yolk with condensed milk into an airy froth, then adding hot black coffee, Making egg coffee Is pretty simple. but each barista has their own secret recipe to create their signatures: some added cacao powder, others honey, etc. l loved it most when it was hot. Instead of stirring up the cup, I appreciated a spoon with different layers: the strong dark traditional Vietnamese coffee topped with soft froth has the texture of a cappuccino. and the flavor of flan. The beverage tasted like a melody! It was hard to describe that feeling of egg's sweet fragrance and the aroma of coffee lingering on the palate... The fragrance and taste, coupled with the atmosphere made the whole experience very Hanoian.
At that moment. I thought I knew why old-time coffee houses like this one became one of the most popular features in Ha Noi. and still are to this day. Even though this coffee house was old, dark and plain, it carried a captivating tacit charm, which inveigled people who once walked in to keep coming again and again. The best clays to go out for a cup of egg coffee are windy days in autumn and freezing, days in winter. Eggs became more delicious and condensed on cold days, hence, egg foam is more cloudlike. It is like how cows' milk in the highlands often stays richer and creates heavier whey as cows had to keep more fat and nutritious in colder weather. This autumn, have you found out your favourite place to come for a sip of egg-coffee?
Source: Minh Kien