Where to get reliable coffee and a proper cuppa in Da Nang
Vietnam is known for its coffee. Not only is it a coffee producing region, it also has a unique signature style of drip coffee, cà phê sữa đá. You’ll find informal local outdoor cafes on every block, and often it’s very cheap.
Sounds like a coffee lovers dream. But it’s not.
When I first arrived in Da Nang, I drank a lot of this coffee, but I noticed I always felt ill after. My stomach hurt and I had an unusual headache. I bought a Vietnamese drip coffee maker and some ground Vietnamese grown coffee, and the result was the same. I thought I’d have to give up drinking coffee entirely.
Then I discovered that adulterating food is a common, if illegal, practice in Vietnam. Everything from adding non edible dyes to sauteed greens to enhance their color, to industrial chemicals used to bleach and then change the color of chicken to make it look fresh, to the use of an unapproved and unknown chemical powder that turns water into a faux beef broth for a Vietnamese staple soup, Pho.
And of course, adulterated coffee.
The worst examples? A Vietnamese family-run coffee manufacturer was caught producing “dirty” coffee, using materials like spent batteries, dirt and rock dust. Wow. That’s bad.
A more mundane adulteration practice is to add chemical flavors, colors and thickeners to cheap coffee to pass it off for higher quality coffee. Not all of these additives are known or approved for use in food.
So while you can definitely get coffee anywhere in Vietnam, you might not want to actually consume that coffee, as it can contain more than you ever bargained for.
Now, on to my list of tried and true faves…
The Windsor Tea House
Owners Jan and Hein have created a haven for Anglophiles and tea lovers in their charming An Thuong tea house. Jan, a British expat and eco tea enthusiast, has gone all out to recreate the ambiance of a country British tea house, complete with a (thankfully) faux crackling fireplace. His wife Hein is a master baker, and you’ll feel spoiled by her excellent cakes and scones.
Windsor is the place to go for proper tea, plus delicious, true to the original baked goods. Too many times I’ve bought a slice of banana bread, carrot cake or a brownie from a bakery in Da Nang only to be utterly disappointed. I almost gave up until I found a few places that bake true. Windsor does an excellent cream tea with scones, Devon cream and jam. Also a big favorite: apple pie and red velvet cake.
You’ll find plenty of tea blends, from herbal to trad British favorites to rich and creamy chai — all served in china or proper tea service for the type of tea. Windsor is a wonderful place to relax alone or catch up with friends — a respite from the construction noise and debris that dominates so much of Da Nang.
Extra points for providing a clean, well provisioned loo, including loo slippers. Note: you’ll need to take your shoes off before entering Windsor.
Bread n Salt
A very comfortable, modern cafe, perfect for a light meal or a chocolate croissant and coffee. As previously stated, baked goods can be very iffy, but along with consistently excellent coffee and espresso drinks, BNS also offers delicious baked goods. Terrific Wifi, ample outlets and comfortable seating make this a good cafe to work from.
Mud is a vegetarian bistro on the beach side that serves up very good espresso drinks. They also serve local kombucha, fresh pressed juice blends and smoothies. You’ll appreciate the serene decor and friendly staff, plus the focus on clean, wholesome food. That means your drinks aren’t stuffed with sugar and the food isn’t laced with MSG. They use quality ingredients. If you only have one coconut coffee in Da Nang, do it here. Note: you’ll need to take your shoes off before entering Mud Bistro, though they do have patio seating where you can leave your shoes on.
One of my go-to river side spots for breakfast and lunch, CookShop has an impressive drinks menu. Excellent coffee, but don’t overlook the list of iced teas. My current favorite is hibiscus, which is slightly spicy and fruity and tangy. Very refreshing, but ask for it not sweet or less sweet. And as with everything at CookShop, it looks as beautiful as it tastes.
Located on the uppermost floor of Vincom Plaza, Caracoli is the only ground coffee I buy in Da Nang. Since I make it at home every day, I rarely sit for a cup when I’m there, though sometimes I do…just to enjoy a chat with the owners, who source and roast their own coffee. The coffee is delicious and clean, no flavor enhancers, colors or fillers — just clean, true, high quality coffee.
Bubble Milk Tea
On the uppermost level of Vincom Plaza, you’ll find a few different options for bubble tea. Yu Tang is definitely my favorite, and I always order the craft boba tea. You might notice a marketing fad in Da Nang of slapping the word craft in front of food and drink names. I don’t think it really applies here, but that’s what it’s called. You’ll love it. Just make sure to ask them to make it not sweet. It is plenty sweet without adding extra sugar. They also have some very refreshing iced teas here.
Another milk tea shop on the same floor is Bumba Milk Tea — where you can get all kinds of interesting add-ons and toppings. Not for the sugar averse!