A Coffee Shop from the old days
Established in 2007, by a young Vietnamese singer, Ms. Linh Dung, the idea of Cong Ca Phe came about when she and her bandmates could not find a suitable place to practice and discuss their ideas. Coincidentally, a good friend who owned a coffee shop had plans to move abroad, and so she took over and spent a few weeks redesigning the location. It was then that Cong Cafe was born.
It should come as no surprise that, in Vietnam, the world’s 2nd largest exporter of coffee, it permeates nearly every aspect of daily social life. The coffee shop is the epicenter of social interaction for nearly all locals. The vast majority of Vietnamese people still prefer a more low-key setting in which to get their daily caffeine intake, and it is not uncommon to see a group of businessmen sitting on small plastic chairs at a street side coffee shop.
There are a couple of unique elements to the preparation of an iced coffee in Vietnam. Firstly, it is served in a small “phin” filter that sits atop your glass. Hot water is added to the ground beans, and it drips slowly into the glass below containing ice and a thick, sweet condensed milk. Coffee time in Vietnam is not to be rushed, but rather, is a moment to relax, read the newspaper, check emails or simply watch the world go by with friends as you wait for the brew to ready itself.
For Dung, the inspiration was to create an original cafe where people could relax and engage in quiet conversation. She modeled the design on the Subsidy Period (1976-1986) which was an era of national transition towards socialism. She used items that were part of her youth such as small tables she remembered fondly, peacock blankets, and even pieces of wood from windows she used to sit next to. “The idea had always been to preserve the imagery of Hanoi in times past, the type of coffee shop I remember from my childhood days, and my mother’s own coffee shop” Dung mused. “Of course, I’ve added my own inspiration, and this means less plastic in favor of wooden features and plenty of knick knacks and memorabilia that I come across”.
As the old saying goes, “One person’s trash is another’s treasure”, and it is with this in mind that Cộng Càfê is designed. Dung has a keen eye for old, seemingly worthless items, and she loves to reuse them to create the decorations that adorn each location. Old photographs, posters, pamphlets and frames can all find a new home here. “It adds to the nostalgia of old Vietnam while creating a unique style and atmosphere for our customers”, she concludes.
While starting from these humble beginnings, the popularity of Cong Cafe took off, as locals quickly became enamoured with the quaint and nostalgic layout and great coffee. Now, it has franchised around 30 branches in cities across Vietnam, and has recently set up in Nha Trang. The 4-floor layout is a treasure trove of interesting paraphernalia related to the Subsidy Period, and it has its own specialty menu that includes milk bread, coffee with coconut milk, a special coconut chocolate milk and a ‘secret recipe’ cream topping.
Visitors can also browse an interesting range of original souvenirs related to old Vietnam that are very difficult to find anywhere else, and would make a fantastic gift to take home. If you have an hour to spare during your trip in Nha Trang, drop in and relax for one of Cong Cafe’s unique offerings and soak up the sights, smells and tastes of the old days.
Cong Ca Phe Nha Trang – 27 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street