I consider myself an epicurean, an explorer of food, and a connoisseur of great coffee. As a frequent jet-setter, you’d think caffeine was just for combating fatigue from frequent time zone hopping. But I also truly enjoy the exquisite experience of sipping coffee in a new city and taking in the all the sights, sounds, and scents that come along with it.
ANA’s Experience Class campaign embodies the belief that the journey is just important as the destination and ANA’s five-star service and authentic culinary creations did not exclude my favorite thing on my journey to Hanoi, Vietnam – coffee!
So, while Asia might be best known for tea, I was excited to explore its unique coffee scene and surprised to find it both on land and in the sky on All Nippon Airways!
Coffee In The Sky
ANA has enlisted the expertise of master chefs and beverage specialists, The Connoisseurs, to create a fine dining experience at 30,000 feet that even includes curating a perfect cup of mid-flight coffee. The Business Class menu had a whole page dedicated to sharing the story of ANA’s coffee, from sourcing single-origin BSCA certified beans cultivated on Monte Alegre in Brazil, to how the coffee is roasted. And get this, they use a roasting method that takes into consideration the air pressure of the plane (.7 to .8 atmospheric pressure to be exact) to produce a pleasant, well balanced flavor that would taste completely different on land, so it is a unique coffee experience that can only be savored in flight. Who knew?!
Coffee On Land
There’s no better city for coffee lovers to explore than Hanoi, Vietnam. When walking through the old quarter, it seems every third storefront is a cafe. From the most casual street corners where you can pull up a stool and order a traditional phin (a Vietnamese drip coffee press) and cup of sunflower seeds to snack on, to elegant European style cafes with Italian style espresso machines, and even the trendiest hipster hangouts with Instagram worthy drinks and decor.
As for coffee, Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, mostly robusta beans which are known for having a higher caffeine content and a strong, sometimes bitter flavor. This is why most of Vietnam’s coffee drinks are balanced with a bit of sweetness. When visiting Hanoi, here are three different types of coffee drinks to try!
Egg Coffee (cà phê trứng)
Hanoi is best known for their egg coffee, a strong espresso with a freshly whipped egg and condensed milk topping, similar to a dollop of sweet custard, that pairs just perfectly with the bitter nutty flavor of strong coffee.
You’ll find egg coffee offered everywhere, but the best place to try it is at the cafe that started it all —Giảng Coffee Shop, which is north of the Old Quarter near Long Bien Bridge. There’s also a second location opened by the founder’s son in the Hoan Kiem district.
We went to the original cafe with a guide that taught us the proper way to drink an egg coffee. She explained most people make the mistake of stirring it all together with a spoon which turns it into a sweet latte and advised that we instead just give it a light stir to help the coffee cut the cream without mixing it, that way you taste both flavors.
Yogurt Coffee (cà phê sữa chua)
Another unique coffee experience you’ll find in Hanoi is yogurt coffee. Instead of your typical coffee creamer, it’s made with yogurt. Some were a bit smoothie-like, but our favorite was the yogurt coffee with sweet purple sticky rice at Cong Ca Phe. It’s a shot of espresso, plain yogurt, and sweet rice that was a refreshing combination of both tangy and sweet. Cong Ca Phe has several locations throughout Hanoi, but I recommend visiting the original on Nha Tho (Church) Street across from St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Milk Iced Coffee (cà phê sữa đá)
There’s nothing like an iced coffee on a warm afternoon in Vietnam, and a Vietnamese iced coffee will give you a perfect mid-day jolt of energy too. For a relaxing break, I recommend sitting up on the second story balcony at Cafe RuNam and ordering an iced coffee. You can order it several different ways, such as a plain iced coffee which will come served with a Vietnamese drip filter and a tall glass of ice to pour it over with sweetened condensed milk served on the side so you can mix it to your preferred sweetness. Or you can order an iced coconut milk coffee for something a bit more tropical.
As a coffee enthusiast, it was a huge part of my exploration and favorite part about Hanoi but I also experienced some of the best food! You can visit historic restaurants, local craft beer, food markets and amazing street food.
You can find a full three-day food guide here but here are some of my top tips!
- Experience the Street Food: Hire a local guide that knows all of the best places and arrive hungry! We went on a three hour private tour with Thanhy of Maia Food & Travel and we tried everything from Pho cuon (fresh spring rolls with beef and lettuce) to Banh Goi (pillow shaped cakes).
- Grab Dinner at Hanoi’s Oldest Restaurant: Chả Cá Lã Vọng is one of the city’s oldest restaurants and feels like you are stepping back in time and entering someone’s home! You basically cook your own meal and are given a burner at your table and all of the ingredients. Note – they don’t have a website so jot down their address: 14 Pho Cha Ca, Hanoi.
- Snap a Picture at Bún Chả Hương Liên: This little restaurant has become famous after Anthony Bourdain took then President Barak Obama for dinner. You can try the Bún Chả dish that consists of grilled minced pork with rice noodles and check out the famous table where the former president sat – which is now enshrined in plexiglass!