Do you start your day with a cup of hot coffee? If yes, I’m with you. To me, a hot cup of well-made cappuccino is always a bless for my everyday. I love getting the takeaway cappuccino cup to the office, excitedly opening it,and pouring down sugar. Then, I open my laptop and start checking my task for a day whilst sipping the steamy , foam-filled coffee.
However, takeaway hot coffee (here my case is hot cappuccino) is not that common in Vietnam like in other Western countries, where you can easily grab a hot cup of cappu or latte, walk to trains and easily drink at office. People here commute on bikes, and surely hanging hot coffee on your bike is always trickier than the iced coffee. Moreover, Ho Chi Minh is always hot, and hotter. People always want ice to chill out everything. Therefore, coffee shops in HCMC always downplay the packaging of hot coffee in the menu. To get cost-wise, coffee shops here normally go with plastic cups for every drink. I always cringe when some coffee shops sell me hot cappu or hot coffee with milk in plastic cups. That’s a big NO to me as they don’t give a good damn care about the coffee itself and the customers. In the past 2 years, things have gone much better for my breakfast choice of hot coffee as there are more and more coffee shops offering options catered for hot coffee. It’s time the coffee shops want to touch the niche market of hot coffee (person like me). The market for iced coffee is way too crowded and competitive. And honestly, coffee all tastes the same to me when it was cold.
Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donut just entered Vietnamese coffee markets and have a wide range of hot coffees with different style of paper / styrofoam cups. However, they all are really pricey for every Vietnamese to afford on daily breakfast. The good thing is the enter of foreign big giants make other local coffee brands push themselves harder to have cheaper hot coffee in decent paper cups.
After a while, I have gathered for myself a list of decent coffee shops offering good options for my love for steamy hot coffee :). To be more exact, here is my list of to-go hot coffee brands. Feel free to comment . I am excited to know about other options in HCMC, the coffee city.
1. My most favourite choice: Urban Station. It’s a local brand, founded and operated by two guys at my age. The decoration and drinks are catered for youngish people, but it turns out that people of various age love the brand thanks to their service, price and quality. Their branding and marketing strategies are spot-on. I’m very curious about their way of management because I find the baristas in all their branches super attentive, welcoming, friendly and professional. They all are very young baristas with high professionalism. I have never seen any barista being rude with me. Sometimes I feel ashamed as I at times can’t be as focused and attentive at my work as they are. That’s mostly my daily choice with a hot decent, heart-shaped foam cappuccino only costing me $1.2 (24.000vnd -27.000vnd) while cappuccino of other global brands here always ranges from $2.5 to $3.5.
Their coffee is nothing to be bragged about but at least the quality is at some levels to make you satisfied with the money you pay. It’s a good to-go. They use pretty good materials for coffee-making.And their improved paper cups make me love their commitment to the hot coffee even more.
In terms of price, location and quality: I rate this brand 8/10 😉
2. Dunkin’ Donuts: it’s my choice when my taste bud tells me that it wants something less creamy than cappuccino. Something blander with only the coffee as the main hero. Then, I always order a combo of a mochi donut and hot bland coffee with milk. The normal Western coffee I used to drink in European school cafeterias. Price: $1.45 (29,000vnd) for eat and drink – not a bad choice. But the funny thing is that every time I order the traditional DD hot coffee, I can see a sign of disappointment clouded on the baristas’ faces. I can see that, and wanna laugh at that. Ok, here it is! Very few people drink hot coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts (why, expensive drinks), and fewer Vietnamese people like that type of Western coffee: watery, bland coffee straight out from coffee-makers with milk. Vietnamese people prefer hot, potent, dripping coffee with condensed milk. That’s the big difference and also the reason why the hot coffee OB in Dunkin’ Donut is the popular option in global Dunkin’ Donuts, but ends up as the jilted child in Dunkin’ Donuts Vietnam. So when I order, they have to make a whole pot of hot coffee and then worry about who would consume the rest of the big pot. ;( Sorry but as a customer, I have rights to order what I want , right?
3. Passio: A Vietnamese brand too. Their cappuccino is rich and strong. The well-brewed coffee blends perfectly with creamy foam. Their price for cappuccino is $1.7. I used to drink their coffee more often than today as their coffee shop is now quite far from my workplace, and I prefer to grab and go rather than have it delivered to me. Have I told you yet, coffee can be delivered here in Vietnam. Actually, in HCMC, anything can be delivered. The business in HCMC is very active;) . I will write another post about ‘delivery coffee’. Back to Passio Coffee, they are Vietnamese brand like the number 1, with slightly higher price than Urban Station. However, their quality is better. I love their paper cups, the lovely fresh green paper cups.
If only their branch is closer to my workplace, I would drink more of their coffee, especially when I need a strong dose of caffein. My score for Passio: 7/10
4. Phuc Long: This is a Vietnamese brand too, and it has been very popular since I backed to Vietnam in 2012. Although Phuc Long is way more popular about their tea drinks, I really like their cappuccino. It’s a combination of strong espresso made from well-brewed top-notch coffee beans, steamy-milk foam made from fresh milk of the Dalat highlands. Very fresh and rich, and strong. It can wake you up for the rest of the day just after one sip. I don’t brag here. It’s a truth. Besides, their green tea latte is incredibly good too. That’s also my favourite choice at weekends:) Their paper cup is a little bit the trying-too-hard replicate of Starbucks coffee. But haha, people used to care but no one cares now as the quality matters more. The price is more expensive than the first three options. The price is $2.25 (45000 vnd),and their store is quite far from my workplace anyway.
Their coffee beans are from the highlands of Vietnam, the most famous spots for rich, authentic coffee beans. I sometimes bought their coffee powder and gave to my former visiting managers when they had chances to visit vietnam. I usualy joked with my beloved former Sing boss that this coffee sounded like “F*ck Long~” and the lame joke just instanty cracked him. 🙂
Rate: 8/10 (the quality makes up for their location and price 😉 ) (I will take more pictures of their coffee… I drink their coffee so often that it never occur to me to have a good snapshot of their coffee)
5. Coffee Republic : this shop has just been added to my list. And who knows, it may top my list one day. This brand is new, and they just have two stores so far. However, their packaging captures my attention. I’m a coffee-holic : about the coffee and things represent coffee too. Their paper cups look adorable, their coffee is freshly roasted and brewed. They use different ways to produce different types of coffee from Vietnamese way to Turkish way. My friend said that the guy behind this coffee shop is a true coffeeholic.
Their coffee smells great, tastes nice and not too strong to make me get too high (like Passio). However, their store is not on my way to workplace so I have to go extra miles to get their coffee. Hmmmmm. Still, when I’m in mood, I don’t mind at all! Ah, one more thing, that coffee brand is also a good spot for you to stay and enjoy coffee because the ambience is very nice. It’s a perfect hideaway.
(Picture is not mine. It belongs to the store. Look how cute their paper cups are <3)
6. My once-in-a-while options: Starbucks, Coffee Bean – the expensive global coffee brands. But well, I don’t have to talk much about these brands as everyone knows loads about these brands already!!! 😛
(I took this picture in late October and Starbucks was already in Xmas theme. lolz)
7. Incito Coffee
This is a new coffee brand I just found out last month. It is a new player in the competitive, fast-growing takeaway coffee market of HCMC. 🙂 Although it is not as popular as Urban Station, I think this brand is actually better than my top favourite. However, my first experience with Incito wasn’t nice at all , as that’s the very first time in my life I saw such a depressing cappu like that. No foam, not hot. It looked just like hot milk coffee. I was on the verge of dropping them from my coffee list and never returned. However, when I drank coffee, I could totally see that the quality was undeniably good. It’s a failed cappu but a high quality milk coffee. The coffee and milk were all good quality; the only problem was their barrista’s skill. I feedbacked to them on fb by pointing out the barrista’s skill and the milk they used. They used sterilized milk, which in turn could harldy produce firm foam. They happily responded to my message, and later I could see the improvements. Now they use high quality fresh milk , and improve their barrista’s skill a lot. Lately, I have gradually shifted my some breakfasts of my workweek to Incito instead of Urban Station 🙂 In the end, I judge based on the coffee itself.
Updated May 27, 2015
8/ McCafe Vietnam
You may know that McDonald landed in Vietnam. And McDonald Vietnam has opened its McCafe stores around Ho Chi Minh City. I tried McCafe in Vivo City District 7, and I find the cappuccino very good. The price is a little bit more pricey than the Vietnamese brands; however, the quality is REALLY good! I love the paper cup and the service in McCafe. Another spot for me to work in D7. Personally, I prefer the McCafe cappuccino to the one from Phuc Long, because the the one from Phuc Long is way too strong for me. I love drinking coffee, but not enough to be called coffee heavy drinker then. sigh.
Note: My featured image is from tumblr. Taken by @jessemorrow