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VietNamNews

Preserve Viet Nam's distinct coffee culture, allow diversity

Update: January, 17/2014 - 09:15
Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers what their thoughts were on a wave of new Western-style coffee shops entering Viet Nam, offering coffee starkly different from the traditional dark brews typically served with condensed milk.

Here are some responses.

Nicole Williamson, Australia

I've been in Viet Nam for three weeks and can't get enough of your beautiful country, especially the wonderful food. But oh the coffee, I can't stand it. At the same time, I've never been a fan of coffee chain stores and only go when desperate for caffeine or wifi.

I sincerely hope the government never permits chains into beautiful old areas like the Old Quarter. You will also end up fat like us Americans and Australians if you drink too much milk or those horrible sweet coffee drinks in the chain stores.

It's important to move with the times while also maintaining traditions - Viet Nam shows how that can be done.

Elijah Chai, Singapore

I have been to HCM City and it possesses a distinct old-world charm. Quaint shop-houses and homegrown coffee joints impress upon the visitor a feel of the past, where time moved much more slowly.

To have New World cafes and commercially entrenched Western imports would most certainly rob HCM City and Viet Nam of its iconic heritage.

Mike Davies, UK

Just one of many attractions regarding Viet Nam is the traditional cafe/restaurant culture. Whether it is traditional or French in origin makes no difference, this is the face of Viet Nam that tourists want to see.

A nation is defined by its food and drink. Yes, Costa should be available along with KFC and the other western brands, this is called the free market. However, lose what you are famous for and fewer will want to come and visit.

My wife (who is from the Mekong) and I have to import Vietnamese coffee when we run out of the supplies we gather each year when we visit. To quote a famous European brewery advertising slogan: "it is probably the best coffee in the world."

As a growing nation, please do not be too quick to throw out the old at the expense of the new. Embrace what you have and market it accordingly.

Peter Stephens, Australia

I like both style of coffee shops, and I think it enriches the culture of Vietnamese cities. The coffee in the Western-style coffee shops is much more expensive.

Did we ask this question when the French brought coffee drinking to Viet Nam? I think it just added to Vietnamese culture as the Western-style coffee shops will and in the future we will think nothing of it.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

Along with pho and spring rolls, Viet Nam is famous for its unique drip style coffee. Your coffee bean industry has sprung up in the last two decades to become the world's second largest exporter, after Brazil.

Celebrate Starbucks showing interest. This is an indicator of Viet Nam maturing into a stable, internationally attractive and vibrant market. These new companies will pay tax, train staff and attract tourists looking for comfort and familiarity.

Let the fashionistas and trendy nouveau riche local youth herd themselves into foreign chains. This will force the local plastic stool-dirty table corner shops to up their game. Competition and change are good things.

When I travel, I go to international chains because I know the price, product and standard. Back home, I avoid overly expensive condescending Starbucks baristas like the plague. I hit local cafes where it is more relaxed.

In Ha Noi, I have troubles with service, even when I present clearly written Vietnamese instructions. There should be no smoking-health and safety first.

Where's the toilet paper and soap? Highlands and Starbucks will set the standard. More coffee drinkers equal intellectuals, readers, sober drivers. Let as many Starbucks in as the market can bear.

Lai Vo, Vietnamese, Binh Phuoc Province

Drinking coffee, especially in the morning has become one of the popular features of the Vietnamese lifestyle. It is enjoyable to sip a cup of coffee and have some chat before starting a new working day.

Traditional coffee has been welcomed and enjoyed by most Vietnamese for a long time. With the appearance of Western-style coffee, customers will have more choices and the opportunity to compare the two types of coffee. It is also an opportunity for traditional coffee to proves its quality to customers.

The existence of the two types of coffee will bring variety to Vietnamese coffee culture and make it more colourful.

Robert Fries, Texas, USA

When I returned to Viet Nam for a visit about 10 years ago, my first breakfast in HCM City was pho bo (beef noodle soup) and cafe da (ice coffee). Hot soup and cold coffee? For breakfast? Where's the bacon, eggs, toast and hot coffee?

After I ate the soup and drank the coffee, that marked the end of American style breakfasts forever. Trung Nguyen coffee became my favorite. I like the process of watching the coffee drip in a cup, then add a tad of sugar, whip it into a foam then pour it in a glass of ice.

Why even travel to a different country if you will encounter the same things, like McDonalds and Starbucks?

Since my return 10 years ago, I fell in love with Viet Nam, the people, culture and customs. I understand the impermanence of all things, but Vietnamese culture has withstood hundreds of years of invasions and wars and I hope it can withstand the latest invaders, the multinational corporations.

Every time I return I see changes that unpleasantly surprise me. — VNS


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