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7 cafe styles in Saigon – An ultimate list for coffee-holic

Tiếng Việt

“Let’s go to a cafe” seems to be the ultimate answer for Vietnamese youth’s catchphrase “Bored of not knowing what to do?”. There is no need to gather a large group of friends or family to go to a cafe, nor does it need to have a reason like “business discussion” or “sharing small secrets” to go for a coffee, sometimes being alone in a cafe for reading, studying or working is also very productive and enjoyable. Therefore, going to cafe is almost a daily routine, an indispensable feature of Vietnamese culture.

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During the days of not going outside the country due to the Covic epidemic, I decided to explore this culture in my lovely Saigon, to contemplate the familiar city through the prism of cafes, especially those in Saigon’s countless alleyways. And surprisingly I realized that I’ve nearly become a stranger in my own city.

Everything has changed rapidly. The way people drink coffee is also different from then to now. Coffee is not only relegated to sipping and thinking as you wait till the last drop of a cup of filtered traditional Vietnamese coffee (black or with milk). Convenient coffee, which is fast but still retains the full Italian coffee flavors like Espresso, Cappuccino or Macchiato is also considered “old fashioned” when cold brewed coffee is trending up with a series of improvised variations. Then hand brew coffee (paper filtered) seems to get us all back to the origin of the sophisticated art of brewing, helping to retain the authentic, light and taste of coffee.

And my own coffee taste has also changed without me noticing it. Once a “die-hard” fan of perfectly thick iced milk Saigon coffee, I now can’t stand its sweet taste, preferring to switch to sugar-free cappuccino. It may take me a while to catch up with the trend of “cold brew coffee” as I have not yet “absorbed” and appreciated its taste.

The world of cafes in Vietnam hence has been blooming all over the places, from main streets to narrow alleys, from the airy garden spaces to multistoried air-conditioned coffee houses. Then, from street corners with tables and chairs lined along the roadside to old tiny forgotten apartments that one must struggle to scramble up the stairs to arrive. Just by wandering the streets, you will sooner or later lose yourself in a coffee shop, offen times hidden somewhere in the small corners of Saigon.

The design of Saigon cafes is getting richer and more unique, keeping updated with the worldwide trends. If Vintage or Retro brings a nostalgic ambience of memories with countless old decorations, Minimalism honors the beauty of “Less is more”. Industrial‘s highlight is its unrefined roughness with a strong and modern look, while Tropical ‘s greenery help to cool down Scandinavian’s cold colors . Meanwhile, Book cafes are quite places to indulge in the pages of a good read.

In a city bursting with coffee shops, these are 7 cafe styles in my collection

  1. Vintage cafes
  2. Retro cafes
  3. Minimalist cafes
  4. Industrial cafes
  5. Tropical cafes
  6. Scandinavia cafes (to be updated)
  7. Book cafes

1. NOSTALGIA WITH VINTAGE CAFES

Originating in the 15th century, the term Vintage initially referred to old wine bottles or “old” (aged under 100 years) and “used” items. Gradually, Vintage has become an outstanding trend in many art areas, such as fashion, painting, photography and interior design as a kind of going back in time, “copy exactly” the style in the past.

The colors in vintage cafes are usually elegant, featuring white as the central color, accentuated with a slight touch of pale colors such as cream, beige, nude, light green or blue gray. Golden light and time-worn furniture carry a romantic and classic look, as well as a “good old days” feeling.

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Decorative accessories are the soul of the vintage style, which must be “Old” and “Used”, from material to design. Faded colored tables and chairs, chandeliers, paintings, wall posters, authentic clocks, or second hand items are the decorative details commonly found in Vintage.

Vintage Cafes in Saigon

  • Dist. 1: Cokernut, L’amant cafe, Loft, Vintage Emporium, …
  • Dist. 2: An Cafe Saigon, …
  • Dist. 3: B-story, Garage Coffee, Remember Me, Vừng ơi mở ra, …
  • Dist. 5: Angelique Bistro, Itune, …
  • Dist. 10: Ansam, Kleine Ecke Cafe, …
  • Phu Nhuan Dist.: The Seat, Yesterday Piano Cafe,…
  • Cafe chains: Id cafe, Runam, Tea Avenue, Tee May, …

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2. THE PRESENT & THE PAST BLEND IN RETRO CAFES

Retro is often confused with Vintage as both are classic style of designs, with a hint of the past. Retro was born after Vintage, actually was inspired by Vintage so it is called “Vintage inspired”. If Vintage is a style of memories, bearing the imprint of time, Retro is a concept of nostalgia, “imitate” the past, wishing to revive or copy old trends with strong innovative modern twists, imparting them with freshness and making them trendier.

Retro color is an impromptu combination, sometimes daring with vibrant tones such as yellow, orange, sepia, pink, purple (from the 50s-60s) with pastel sweetness like beige, blue or green (of the 70s), creating an eye-catching contrast with outdated decorative items from the “grandparents’ generation”.

Retro decorations do not have to be “old” and “used”, just “imitate” the old style, helping to recall a domain of memories. Desk phones, tiny TV screens, coal irons, cassettes or Kodak films are “long time no see” items of the previous generations, that have become very weird and “don’t know how to use” stuffs to Gen Z.

Retro Cafes in Saigon

  • Dist. 1: Bâng khuâng cafe, Cà phê Cô Ba Rooftop, Cakes & Ale cafe,  Cửa hàng Cafe 81, Góc Hà Nội, Hoàng Thị,  Lão Hạc, Little Hà Nội, Mockingbird, Okkio, Tiệm nước Saigon Life, She Cafe, Things Cafe, Út Lành, …
  • Dist. 3: Hoa Giấy, Năm Mười Mười Lăm, Saigon Retro, Vietgang…
  • Dist. 4: Trà đá Ông Trùm, …
  • Dist. 5: Cam Cam Kafe, Steven Tea & Coffee, The Wall coffee & beer, Yumcha Tea Room, …
  • Dist. 7: Little chair, Dream Art Coffee, …
  • Dist. 10: Lò Gạch cafe, Tượng Cafe Acoustic, …
  • Dist. 11: Rim Coffee, …
  • Binh Thanh Dist.: Hẻm Café Sài Gòn, Ngách 160, …
  • Go Vap Dist.: Sài Gòn 80s Nhà Mình, …
  • Phu Nhuan Dist.: Cafe Nhỏ, Mưa Rào, Xô Bồ, …
  • Tan Binh Dist.: Finita, …
  • Cafe Chain: Caztus, Cộng, Ngọt, …

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3. THE CHARM OF MINIMALISTIC CAFES

While Vintage & Retro use plenty of old fashioned decorations to helps us traveling back in time, Minimalism simplifies every detail from the shape, design to colors, materials, and limits the use of decorative items as much as possible.

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A minimalistic place does not have more than 3 colors, with the background usually in white, the main color can be black or beige and the highlights are pastel or in elegant tones. The uniformity between walls and ceilings is an important feature of a minimalist design, combined with natural lights (or fake lights) making the space look larger, brighter and more airy.

Minimalistic decorations are used very selectively, often following the main tone, developing subtle highlights that create a unique charm of each cafe.

Minimalism was originated from America in the 1960s  as a trend in painting and sculpture, gradually spreading to many other areas such as music, fashion design, interior and exterior decoration, … And by the 21st century, it has become a life philosophy, honoring the creation of a space with “minimize objects but maximize happiness”.

Do not just stop at the disposal of furniture & personal items, minimalism lifestyle is also a tendency to solve problems with just the essentials. There is a notion to simplify relationship to eliminate “acquaintances that we just know” and spend more time with the beloved ones. To simplify the entertainment to seek for the “right quality”, imparting values of humanity and knowledge. To minimize information to avoid being overloaded with too much information.

Minimalism has never been inspired by poverty or savings. The creators of this style may have anything, but they choose the simplest and most elegant, and those are not necessarily a cheap option.

Minimalistic Cafes in Saigon

  • Dist 1: Bơ by Butterman, Danshari, Dreamy Days cafe, Fuji Saryo, Hạ Thiên Cafe, Luia, Porapora, Seesaw Coffee, Shinbui Concept, Thinker & Dreamer, Trứng, …
  • Dist 3: Bagua House, Chamchamayo, Cote cafe, Mapiness, Whatever cafe,  …
  • Dist 4: Katholic Coffee, …
  • Dist 5: September Coffee & Cake, …
  • Binh Thanh Dist: De Olla Cafe, Koo Kafe, Thinh Coffee, Wildest Dreams Coffee, …
  • Phu Nhuan Dist: Dome Kafe, Nhà Của Nắng, The 22 Coffee, YOUniverse, …
  • Tan Binh Dist: Cafe Blanc, Hạ An Corner, …

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4. THE ROUGHNESS OF INDUSTRIAL CAFES

If Minimalism honors the charm of simplicity, Industrial exposes every “bare” detail for what it is. Derived from a need of transforming old warehouses and factories into apartments/ houses in the early 20th century in Europe, industrial designs were highly utilitarian, just renovating what were already available.

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Industrial’s highlight is its unrefined roughness with strong and modern appearance. Raw brick walls, broken concrete, rough cement floors, metal rods, pipes, even electricity wires exposed from the ceiling. The “openness” of the house technical system helps to extend the height (which is usually already high) of the ceiling, and it is easy to repair when needed.

Colors in industrial style prominently features raw materials, such as cement, concrete, bricks or wooden beams, often possessing neutral tones, conveying a coarse and cold feeling. Bright colored decorations and small trees, together with natural lights through large glass doors or yellow electric lights help to balance the vision, soften and warm up the industrial ambience.

The rugged simplicity sometimes makes industrial designs look cliché and boring. Therefore, industrial cafes offen combine with other styles to create their own impression. The Coffee House or Highland Cafe are the great examples as they combine Industrial & Retro or Vintage with just a few details: colorful hand painted walls, some old-style furniture or old retro-colored bricks

Industrial cafes in Saigon

  • Dist. 1: 96B Experiment, Caztus NTMK, Hummingbird, Lacof, Passss modern tea, Workshop, …
  • Dist. 2: We Café An Phú (+Retro), …
  • Dist. 3: Barista Collective, Coffee Hut, …
  • Dist. 4: Lala Coffee & Tea, …
  • Dist. 5: The Monday Coffee, The Three Coffee, …
  • Dist. 10: Xì Gòn Phố Cafe, …
  • Binh Tan Dist.: Katifi, …
  • Binh Thanh Dist.: The Workstation Coffee, …
  • Tan Binh Dist.: Eagle Sport Hub, Lii, Seven Days Coffee, Ticos, …
  • Cafe Chain: The Banned Coffee, Cheese Coffee, The Coffee Factory, The Coffee House, Effoc, Hebe Tea & Coffee, Kai, Katina, Là Việt, L’usine, Ollin, Phin & Bean, Three O’clock, Thức, WEGO, …

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5. COOL AIR IN GREEN TROPICAL CAFES

Tropical is the real contrast to the cold roughness of Industrial. Inspired by the natural colors of the tropics with the sea, the sky, plants & trees, sun & wind, tropical design brings the nature into the house, creating a fresh lush space with a sense of comfort and serenity.

saigon-cafe-nho-tropical

The colors or materials used in tropical style mostly come from the nature. The main green color of the trees harmonizes with the rustic golden brown tone of rattan, bamboo or wood. Not only brings the sincerity but also creates an eco-friendly environment. Whether it is outdoors or indoors, natural lights are maximumly exploited, making the tropical space always illuminated with full sun.

Plants are the indispensable decorative element in tropical style, from flower pots on the table, small ornamental plants hanging on the walls, to big garden trees, even using fake plants, or foliage motifs on wallpaper or canvas. Other decorative accessories are also very rustic and natural. Each detail will make you feel like stepping into a garden filled with greenery and fragrant plants.

Tropical Cafes in Saigon

  • Dist. 1: Khóm, Lekima, Mộc Little Farm, Padma de Fleur…
  • Dist. 2: Bonjour Café The Art, Mầm Café, Ngôi nhà màu hồng và chiếc xe màu xanh,
  • Dist. 7: Farmer’s Garden, Leha’s Home Cactus Garden, Nắng Rooftop, …
  • Dist. 10: Boong Café (+ Industrial),
  • Go Vap Dist.: Lava Coffee, …
  • Binh Thanh Dist.: Cú Trên Cây, Nắng Xanh Garden, Tròn Bistro, ..
  • Tan Binh Dist.: Hiên Cúc Trắng, …
  • Cafe Chain: 38 Flower Market Tea House, …

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7. PEACEFULNESS OF BOOK CAFES

“Coffee”“Books” go hand-in-hand. Coffee helps you kickstart your day while books are places to generate new ideas. Go to a cafe can connect us with friends, while reading can help us connect to the vast world of knowledge. The taste of a delicious cup of coffee will help you remember a certain moment in life, much like how a good book can change some’s life.

saigon-cafe-nho-cafesach

Having existed for quite some time in Europe, the idea of coffee & books is the perfect combination of two traditional spaces: the library & the café. This is where you can find relief from the hustle and bustle of life and lose yourself in words while sipping your favorite cup of coffee. Book cafes are not just for book lovers, but also quiet places for everyone to enjoy peace, regardless of whether they are doing something related to books. Interestingly, book cafes are not necessarily as quiet as a library, but never as noisy as a traditional coffee shop.

Book cafes in Saigon are very diverse. Some places are magnificent, airy with towering bookshelves, some are cozy with lovely little corners. Some please are bright with table and chairs lined in library-style, some are without rules, featuring numerous spaces to sit or even lie down comfortably.

Inherently, reading culture is not the pride of contemporary Vietnamese, so very few people come to book cafes to actually read book. Most of the time, they are there in search of a peaceful space, as a quiet haven in the middle of busy Saigon, to think, study or work. Conversations, if any, are reduced to small whispering sounds, adding a little aftertaste to the book cafes.

Book cafe in Saigon

  • Dist. 1: Bản cafe, Đẹp Cafe (Đường Sách), Chiêu Cafe Sách, Hidden Elephant Books & Coffee, Reading Cabin (Phòng đọc sách),…
  • Dist.2: The Lib Coffee & Books, Haven Book Cafe, …
  • Dist.3: An Book Cafe, Cafe Nhà Sách Cá Chép, Kafka Bookstore…
  • Dist.7: Cafe Comma, …
  • Binh Thanh Dist.: Mọt Cà phê Sách, Nhã Nam Book N’ Coffee,…
  • Phu Nhuan Dist.: Nhã Nam Thư Quán,…
  • Tan Binh Dist.: Cafe sách Huy Hoàng, EMC Book Café, Slowee Coffee & Book, …
  • Cafe chain: Phương Nam Book Cafe

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* To be updated with other cafe styles

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