Practically designed for Instagram, Hidden Gem Coffee feels like a whimsical and anime-esque technicolor experience.
The owner wants to raise awareness on reusing, recycling, and reducing waste in a country very much still in the beginning stages of environmental policy and awareness. He gave a talk when I visited that he especially cares since people in his hometown developed higher rates than average of cancer due to industrial waste pollution from nearby factories. In general, he’s concerned about environmental degradation in Vietnam and really there are stories like this all over Asia as a cost of economic development, so it really resonated with me.
The walls are lined with murals of a previous era of Vietnamese life toned with the nostalgic quality that characterize so many of Hanoi’s cafes. He mentioned the paintings of traditional life were inspired by his mother. The cafe was one of the newest and most unique I visited in Hanoi since he decorated the entire place with unwanted items he’d gathered, hence the name Hidden Gem. It also features three levels of seating with good internet so it’s an ideal study and workplace as well.
I enjoyed my egg coffee, though not the best I’ve had, which is an honor I reserve for Cafe Giang. The egg coffee I had was certainly made with love and skill – eggs whipped with their unique use of Bailey’s instead of other liquors, usually a rice wine, typically used in egg coffee. This place is worth a stop to decompress from hectic Hanoi and worth your support. It’s also close to this awesome sticky rice place.
Vietnamese Yogurt Coffee originated Hanoi’s Cafe Duy Tri. Cafe Duy Tri represents one of the atmospheric, what I call old school coffee places in Hanoi, but ups it a notch with its own roaster, selling beans out front and three low floors/crawl spaces to hang out in with free Wi-Fi. It’s a bit hot and can smell a bit cigarette-smoky but worth coming through for the experience and for the yogurt coffee.
Real talk, the yogurt coffee I’ve had here is second-to-none in Hanoi, and I’ve had a lot of yogurt coffee in Hanoi. The key difference is instead of the regular tart yogurt used by most places, they freeze theirs so it has a frozen soft serve quality that balances the stronger notes of the coffee differently than other place I’d been to. Really good. It’s a little out of the way of the old quarter area, but I enjoyed walking around the lake in this area. Much more calm, leafy, and residential. Stop by if you’re planning on checking out the One Pillar Pagoda, Chua Kim Lien, or Maison de Tet Decor nearby.
I was walking back from the Obama/Bourdain Bun Cha place (verdict: solid family restaurant Bun Cha eg. like your local diner you’ll eat at a few times per month not the best Bun Cha in Hanoi. Was worth the fangirl experience for me) to my lodgings and discovered this place: Chang 1989
It seems like kind of akin to Cong Ca Phe and maybe ripping off the aesthetics, maybe a bit more upscale.
I really enjoyed the yogurt coffee I had there, and the overall good vibes. It’s off from the tourist and general madness that is the Old Quarter in a much more normal and also nicer residential neigborhood with clientele that reflected that. Definitely felt like a relief since I stayed near the “24h” street so my days often had too much close proximity to asshole-acting dirty Australian backpackers, weird hippie white people from the North America constantly wearing logo t-shirts and bandanas, and of course your random European vacationers as well.
So yes, it was kind of a nice relief to be in a more upscale location with cheaper than average coffee (~1 USD) at better quality compared to the busier part of town sitting with locals.
The yogurt in the coffee tasted fresh with the that right amount of subtle Asian yogurt sweet and tart mixed with Vietnamese coffee, which they brewed quite delicately rather than just intense dark roast. Considering I’ve been trying a new coffee shop a day everyday at this point in my time in Hanoi, it stood out.
What I admire about the brand new place, so new that kid had a nailgun putting up more of the nostalgic wood paneling, is that it had a lot more attention to detail and shine than a lot of places I’ve seen trying to replicate the same feel. Unlike a lot of places where nostalgia is faded and sometimes even unintentionally dreary because of that or looks too artificially hipster, this place pops with color, like a technicolor film coming to life, a youthful exuberance. It does the old world glamor of a time that probably didn’t exist right. I lingered longer than I normally would alone and took more pictures than I normally would – like I think I was being creepy.
The friendly young people running it are definitely step above the hipster hive and after months on the road, that’s appreciated. If you’re going to Obama/Bourdain fan-girl, stop by here after your Bun Cha.