We decided to travel to Da Lat on the recommendation of MANY Vietnamese people who assured us the weather is lovely : meaning a reprieve from the heat of the coast.
After a five hour bus ride from Nha Trang (where it was 39) we arrived in Da Lat (where it was 25 and required us to layer on some clothing…this temperature now feels so cold!!)
Of all the adventures we had in Da Lat, one especially stands out, coffee on the lake.
We had ridden a cable car to visit Linh An Pagoda. At the time we arrived it was swarming with tour buses so we decided to walk down to the lake to relax with some coffee hoping the crowds would be gone at lunch since the cable car closed at that time for two hours.
We walked to the lake and saw a sign with COFFEE on the other side like a beacon calling us so off we went. On the short walk over a few locals stopped us to have their photos taken with us. How cute!
We arrive at the coffee shop which is an odd mix of classic restored motorcycles, large bottles of high end alcohol and well…coffee.
As soon as we enter, I immediately notice more than one person taking our photo with cameras, phones and an iPad. Everyone is so excited to see us! From the second level, a male voice calls out “Welcome! Welcome! Please have whatever you like in my coffeehouse! Where are you from my friends? What is your names?” We answer in turn and are seated on a patio facing the lake. Magnificent.
We open the menu and search for coffee. There is only one kind and it costs 200,000 Dong (about $12). Naturally, I start looking for something cheaper to drink. Naturally, Dani is confused and starts ranting and wonders if we should leave.
The man who previously greeted us appears at our table. He is so energetic and animated. He introduces himself as Phuc and asks our names again. It is his good fortune to have us in his coffee shop he says. What good luck for him he repeats. Dani says “why is the coffee so expensive don’t you have any normal coffee?” Phuc responds with a laugh “No, not expensive! For you, free! Anything you want for free! It is my good luck to have you so for you it is free! Five star coffee for you free!” More photos of Phuc with his long ponytail, long goatee in his fancy suit with us being snapped by onlookers. *note: we are dressed for hiking…in clothes that we have been wearing for ten months*
Well, obviously now that the coffee is free, that is what I am going to have. Phuc disappears as fast as he appeared and our server takes our order. Two coffees. Our waitress leaves and then returns shortly. She asks if we would mind moving inside while we wait the 45 minutes for the coffee to be prepared. Dani’s jaw drops. I explain to her that I think they make it using a siphon. Since Dani thinks she wants one of these once we return home, we go inside to see how this works.
The server dressed in her black and white uniform sets up the siphon with the coffee. Behind her is a bar cart of coffee utensils – cups, hot water, condensed milk, spoons of various sizes. She lights a white block and places the flame underneath the siphon and watches intently as it bubbles. She explains that this coffee comes from weasels that roam free in the area, eat the coffee beans and then poop out the coffee cherries that are then roasted to make the coffee we are going to drink.
She brings over a box that explains it in more detail along with 100 grams of the coffee in a bag. Thinking this might be a good souvenir, Dani asks how much. The server replies “2 million dong” which is about $115 Canadian.
Phuc reappears seemingly out of nowhere. He asks if we are married. We both reply in the affirmative. He sounds disappointed and calls us beauties. He tells us about how he travels for business and some other random personal facts because he says he wants to make sure we remember him – because he will never forget our beauty. All the while this conversation is occurring, more photos of him sitting by my side are being taken.
Our coffee expert lights another fire under the siphon. She explains that this will need to be done a third time before our coffee is ready to drink.
Phuc continues to speak to us about our travels in Vietnam. He is so animated that I find myself laughing wildly each time he lets out a small laugh. He starts describing all the motorcycles around us. “Aren’t they beautiful! Do not forget this beauty!” And he walks away.
The third siphon of our coffee has begun. There are now three girls huddled around the bar cart readying our mugs by warming them and putting in condensed milk and placing it in front of us just so. This whole experience is really making us feel underdressed in our hiking clothes.
The server takes apart the siphon and pours the coffee into our prepared cups. We watch intensely. After all this production, we are presented with about a tablespoon of coffee.
We try to savour it…but even with that, we are done drinking it in about 4 minutes.
Phuc returns exclaiming “how is it? How is my coffee?!”
We both announce how wonderful it is. So delicious! This pleased Phuc and he invited us to lunch with his family. Dan’s immediate response “Yes!” Free lunch = deal == Dani’s favorite thing. First, he must get his boat driver to come to collect us. Can we please wait, he asks.
No problem! Not entirely sure what we have signed up for we wait. Phuc disappears.
We each message a friend explaining what has just happened and providing our GPS coordinates. For safety HAHA.
As we wait, we slowly start to reconsider mostly because we want to be sure to catch the last cable car back to town. Dani starts really reconsidering because she suspects lunch will be fish since we are on a lake and all. Dani hates fish.
We wait for what seems a long time probably 30 minutes and we decide to leave. The staff seem surprised and we explain that we need to be sure to be back for the cable car and to apologize to Phuc for us. The server says don’t worry the coffee is free and we are on our way!
We both lament on the way back that we didn’t upset kind Phuc. Or perhaps he changed his mind…Since we are both married.