Among a variety of retro-style coffee shops which have been popping up across Ho Chi Minh City over the past few years, ca phe vot, or net-filter coffee, stands out as a favorite rendezvous for young people to relive the good old vibes of Saigon.
Net-filter coffee takes its name because the coffee is brewed with the old-fashioned filtration method using a spoon-net filter, which resembles the instrument used to catch fish at aquatic stores.
The spoon-net filter, consisting of a white cloth and a steel handle, will first be placed upon an empty stainless steel jug, before the barista spoons some ground coffee into the net and adds hot water to the mix.
The net will be kept in the jug for a few seconds before the barista adds more water and pour the ready-to-serve beverage into glasses.
A nameless café hiding in a small alley on Phan Dinh Phung Street in Phu Nhuan District is one of those rare coffee shops that still perform this old-style brewing method in Ho Chi Minh City.
The café, owned by Dang Ngoc Con, better known by locals as Mr. Ba, and his wife Tuyet, is a three-generation heritage.
With Mr. Ba growing old and weak, Tuyet and their children take turns to oversee the coffee shop, which has been open for the past 60 years.
Despite being in her sixties, the old lady is still able to briskly produce the coffee as the job is “tiring yet enjoyable” to her.
|The spoon-net filter with a white cloth ballooning off a steel bubble wand is propped over an empty stainless steel jug. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The charcoal stove to boil water for making the coffee, which is regarded as the soul of the shop, has never been left with no fire on.
A glass of coffee at this net-filter café only costs around VND10,000-15,000 (US$0.44-0.66).
Old-style café for young generation
Many young first-time visitors to the unique coffee shop immediately fall for ca phe vot.
“I found its name, net-filter coffee, quite strange and interesting, so my friends and I came here to enjoy and have become a frequenter of this place for two years,” said Minh Sang, a patron of the café.
“What I like most about this net-filter coffee is it is not really strong and bitter, while having an aromatic flavor.”
The later the night gets, the busier the café becomes.
At around 9:00 pm every day, the small alley is packed with young people, who sit on small plastic chairs, holding cups of ca phe den, or black coffee, and ca phe sua da, or milky iced coffee, and chat until the narrow passageway is filled with voice and laughter.
|Young visitors sit on plastic chairs to enjoy the coffee at the net-filter café. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Nguyen Thang, an elder Saigonese, said that he was quite surprised and glad at the same time to see the young generation enjoying the old-fashioned coffee.
“I thought that only those old people at my age would love this kind of coffee, not expecting that the young people would also enjoy the net-filter coffee this much,” Thang said.
To many young customers, this coffee alley is like a miniature society since a person just sits here one day to be able to see people from all walks of life.
The typical scene here is old men sitting by a hot tea pot, a glass of coffee while reading a newspaper every morning, and officer workers chit-chatting in the afternoon.
When night falls, the alley is dominated by young people from all walks of Saigon.
No Wi-Fi, no air conditioning, the old space here lets people easily put their smartphones down to really converse with friends as a means to relive a Saigon tradition that may have been forgotten in today’s fast-paced society.
“Whoever you are, whatever you do, just come here and have a coffee, you’ll be able to talk to each other as close friends," said The Anh, a young patron.
“The net-filter coffee makes me understand and love the people of Saigon more,” Anh added.
|Tuyet, the owner’s wife and currently main barista of the coffee shop, smiles as she brews coffee for customers. Photo: Tuoi Tre|