Photo by Julie Vola

Tucked away in Ba Dinh, this small, cosy coffee shop is something between a café and a science lab. Above the counter is a sign that lists seven different tools of the barista trade to choose from, and imported coffees from the likes of Burundi, Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea — a rarity even in a city as obsessed with coffee as Hanoi.

 

On a warm Sunday afternoon, 33-year-old Luong Thanh Binh demonstrates the delicate art of pour-over coffee making for two young Vietnamese men in black-rimmed glasses, sci-fi novels in hand. They swill their coffees in snifters like discerning brandy drinkers, as Binh points to the relevant flavour notes on a chart he keeps behind the bar.

 

Binh learnt his trade from barista friends and YouTube videos, unsatisfied with his inability to find a cup of coffee he liked in Hanoi. After 10 years abroad in Russia, he’d developed a taste for the lighter, more subtle style of coffee enjoyed in the West. Imported coffee has sour, bitter, sweet, and salty notes, while Vietnamese coffee is only bitter, he explains.

 

Binh and his wife Van spent nearly a decade as sports reporters for VTV, but their love of coffee and desire for something new led them to quit the broadcasting life and open Kafeville in March of this year. It’s a simple, direct concept — no cake, no frills, just imported coffee and local tea made artfully and with great care. What they’ve created is unique.

 

“I want to change the way people in Hanoi drink coffee,” says Binh.

 

Indeed no-one else in the city is brewing the bean with such passion and love. And certainly no other café is offering such a range of brewing styles. Here you can try anything from Chemex and siphon through to French press, Aeropress, machine made and, naturally, Vietnamese filter.

Photo by Julie Vola 

Photo by Julie Vola

Creating Choice

 

Each cup comes with a small chocolate-chip cookie and a sugar cube, and you can even choose how it’s made. Do you want it poured over a Chemex, or steeped in a French press, or vacuum-suctioned through a siphon pot? Each tool creates different flavours, which Binh is more than happy to explain, while he measures out beans and pours latte art.

 

Where Binh handles the coffee, Van takes care of the tea. She’s selected a variety of styles and flavours from across Vietnam, and organised each into a sampler of small glass bottles, so you can choose what you’d like by sight and scent.

 

The couple persuaded an artist friend to design the interior for them. He even drew diagrams of coffee concoctions on the signboard, so you can be sure what you’re ordering. Do you know the difference between a cappuccino and a café latte? Don’t worry, Kafeville’s got you covered.

 

The décor is simple yet stylish, with grey walls and rough-hewn tabletops. There are even a few antique sewing tables dotted around the café, and a bookshelf and chess set offer some cerebral entertainment. A bright teal couch sits in the corner by the floor-to-ceiling front windows, which bathe the small café in sunlight.

 

Apart from espresso (VND40,000), cappuccino (VND50,000) and cold brew (VND45,000), the shop also sells 100 grams of roasted beans for VND80,000 (which they are happy to grind for you on request).  

 

Kafeville is at 22 Nguyen Trung Truc, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Photo by Julie Vola

Photo by Julie Vola

Jesse Meadows

Like many expats before her, staff writer Jesse Meadows stopped in Hanoi on a backpacking trip in early 2015 and just hasn’t managed to leave yet. A compulsive documentarian with a case of incessant curiosity, she loves buying one-way tickets, photographing dance parties and writing stories on the bus. 

Website: www.messyjeadows.tumblr.com

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