Across from a vintage French mansion, a small vanguard of young Vietnamese latte drinkers sit at tables spread along the sidewalk in the hazy late afternoon sun. Above, vines crawl up the sides of faded yellow walls towards quaint green shutters. Motorbikes whiz by beneath. The Vietnamese coffee mavens talk quietly over their coffee, observing the throngs going in and out of the well-known noodle soup shop on the corner.
Hanoi’s coffee culture, like much of its old charm, is connected to the legacy of French colonialism. The French first introduced coffee to Vietnam in 1857 and by 1950, the country was producing and exporting instant coffee, which placed the focus on Robusta. Vietnam is now the world’s second-largest coffee producer, harvesting over 1.5 million tons per year and accounting for as much as 40% of the world’s Robusta.