1/ The origin
In the late 1880s, the French took over Hanoi from the Vietnamese Nguyen Dynasty and in 1902, made it the capital city of French Indochina, marking one of the most important milestones in the city’s history. Since then, Hanoi underwent a thorough transformation.
The French came with their radically new ways of life. They brought electricity, built infrastructure and most of all, they brought material and cultural luxuries which were once reserved exclusively for the rich. One of those is coffee, and after a century of proliferation, it has become one of Vietnam’s most popular and beloved beverages.
2/ Why Sunday?
In the seventh day of creation, God did nothing, not because there was nothing to be done, but God intentionally created a day for relaxation (Genesis 2:3). Eventually, it became an international code: Sunday is not a day to drown yourself in work or be burdened by the worries of everyday life as everyone makes time for relaxing with loved ones.
Therefore, if you ever wander around the Old Quarter of Hanoi on a Sunday morning, one of the most common scenes to behold is a man and his woman riding their old motorbike to their favorite coffee place. Such people will most likely spend the morning doing nothing particularly: just reading a newspaper, drinking a cup of coffee and maybe even gossiping. But it will never be considered a morning wasted.
3/ A culture
Coffee has become an essential part of Hanoian culture. New coffee places pop up every other week, but some bear names that distinguish themselves from the rest with promises of memorable experiences: Café Giảng with their trademark egg coffee, café Đinh with its spectacular view to the Hoan Kiem lake, café Lâm with its famously strong coffee which leaves an hour-long aftertaste. All leave their footprints on the memory of Hanoi coffee lovers, none of whom can resist the temptation to return to the old coffee places to catch up with old friends, listen to old music and smoke old pipes. For those born and raised in the city, a single whiff of nostalgic aroma can strum their heart strings and ignite within them the smallest urge to rush home.
4/ Will it ever die?
You cannot say you have been to Hanoi, if you have not experienced sitting on the pavement on a tiny wooden chair with some black coffee contained in an age-old looking glass cup. Yet as of recently, young people seem to prefer air – conditioned places that focus more on interior decor than the drinks themselves. With this currently emerging youth culture, will the traditional Hanoians’ coffee places eventually disappear one day? This is a question still left unanswered.
By Quang Nghia