Ice Sai Gon coffee stirs up style in central city

Update: February, 01/2014 - 08:30

by Hoai Nam

Having succeed in opening a series of European style cafes in HCM City, Le Nguyen Tung Lam has introduced his own brand, Cafe Da Sai Gon, (Sai Gon Ice coffee) in the central Da Nang city.

Four cafes have been developed in the central city, with a decidedly different beverage style and taste.

A mixture between European and Asia, and a wide range of coffee drinks, have persuaded gourmets in the central region to pay prices of VND20,000 and VND50,000 for each drink.

This is the first time connoisseurs in the central city have tasted coffee that is made from a coffeemaker.

As is well known, people in the central region drink strong coffee from a ready-mixed short glass with ice. Bar tenders make coffee with a filter, and customers wait some 10 minutes to drink their drop-by-drop coffee. The traditional coffee-making and selection of coffee beans creates a bitter taste after drinking, which gourments in the central region are used to.

"It took a persistent introduction and persuasion, because coffee drinkers in the central region do not want something disturbing their style," said Lam.

"It took four months to introduce a new drinking style with the coffee-maker that I had in HCM City. But I used a private recipe for locals – the Da Nang ice coffee," he said.

He added that the recipe has not changed traditional drinking at local cafes, as it still remains their favourite taste.

The cafe owner said Da Nang-style coffee drinkers want to mix ice and coffee, while Sai Gon people prefer more ice, due to the hot weather in the southern region.

Truc Nguyen, a bar tender at the café, said the coffee-maker produces a full-cream coffee.

"The coffee machine will give a cup of coffee with full quality and taste after just a few minutes with steam. It's different to the traditional way that people use hot water for making a cup of coffee with a filter," Nguyen said.

"Steam will maintain the taste and flavour of coffee, while serving it hot. It brings a sweet smell with a soft and fatty taste of the original coffee."

Luu Hoang Anh, a coffee gourmet in Da Nang city, said that drinking coffee in front of a coffee-maker and bar tenders is something new.

"I can feel the full process of coffee being made from seeds to the cooling of coffee with ice, and the way bartender make coffee," Anh said.

"Sai Gon ice coffee give us another choice for coffee, while keeping the old style of the central region. I can order a Da Nang coffee style with its original quality," he said, adding that the price is not so expensive.

A coffee ranges between VND12,000 and VND25,000, a bit higher than street coffee.

Thanh Binh, who prefers street coffee costing VND6,000, said he does not know about the quality of street coffee.

"I don't know what kind of coffee they make for me at street venders. They (coffee sellers) only make it so it is profitable," Binh said.

"However, I have to pay at least three times as much as for street coffee, but get a higher quality and the best service. I mean that coffee at the shop or well decorated bars, such as Trung Nguyen (Highlands Coffee) or European Coffee at hotels and resorts, often costs between VND30,000 and VND50,000," Binh said.

Lam, whose father is from the Central Highlands Dac Nong Province, the land of coffee farming, said his family had experience in farming coffee and managing cafes in HCM City.

"I try to create a new style of coffee with quality hygiene and service, but I offer it at a reasonable price," Lam explained.

"I import coffee makers, and the technology of preservation and skill in roasting coffee," he added.

The 32-year-old cafe owner said roasted coffee is preserved in special bags that maintain the highest quality coffee for three months.

He said the secret is in the ratio of beans, time for roasting coffee and the mixture of different kinds of beans.

Lam emphasized that building a successful trademark for coffee bars depends upon the quality of coffee and service provided customers.

"I still set up a street style cafée in Da Nang with low tables and chairs. But discriminating customers enjoy the best quality, reasonable price and good service," he said.

"I also promote take-away coffee to serve for businessmen and passers-by."

A group of four cafes with the brand Ice Cafe Sai Gon have been developed in the central city's downtown.

The brand is expected to boost tourism in Hoi An city. — VNS