coffee & tea

By sheer coincidence, I bumped into Anh last night. He’s the old man who drove me around Hoi An and the surrounding villages during my four day stay in January. I had looked for him and Son at Sao Mai earlier in the week, so it was a nice surprise to see him in town last night.

He took me to Son’s house – a tiny $10-a-month room he shares with his sister and girlfriend – and the three of us went out for drinks. Anh speaks no English at all but seemed content enough to just sit quietly off to the side.

I also met them for coffee the next day at the kind of crowded little sidewalk dive that is common in Vietnam and typical of where local people gather. They sit around low tables, on little child-size chairs and chat, watch people wander by or just stare off into space.

The most barebones of these places are usually men-only, although not by policy. Boys wander through, selling lottery tickets and newspapers. The nicer joints have a more diverse clientele – men, women, boys, girls, couples.

A cup of strong, delicious Vietnamese coffee at one of these places costs anywhere between 15 and 30 US cents. You can have it with or without sweet condensed milk, and it’s usually served with a chaser of Vietnamese tea – a very drinkable, weak brew of a yellowish colour, with a hint of vanilla. You can have these hot or iced, or one served each way, as you prefer.

You don’t usually see foreigners in these places, but the people are unfazed and always welcoming when you wander in and take a seat.