Hoi An city in Central Vietnam was an old trading port dating from the 15th to 17th Centuries and is well preserved.
Surrounded by rice paddies and just a ten minute drive to the beach, the UNESCO World Heritage “Ancient Town” in the centre of the city, dates back to the 15th Century and unlike nearby cities such as Da Nang, was fortunate to remain intact and virtually undamaged throughout the Vietnamese war. Cars are forbidden at all times in the ancient city and for part of the afternoon and most of the night, the Ancient Town is designated a walking and cycling town, which without motorbikes beeping at you continuously, makes for a pleasant stroll past the carefully restored shopfronts, housing, restaurants, shops and bars.
Snaking through the ancient town is the Son Hua River, which throughout the day carries dozens of wooden boats, rowed by old Vietnamese women, wearing conical hats, ferrying passengers from one side of the river to the other and taking tourists, iPhones at the ready, for hour long cruises along this stretch of the river. At night the stillness of the river reflects the lights from thousands of lanterns that decorate the shops and roads throughout this beautiful city.
On our first day in Hoi An, we arranged to meet a photography friend who lives there, for a coffee. He invited us to meet him at Mia Coffee Shop, near to his studio, with the promise that it was the best coffee in Hoi An. The café, which opened about 18 months ago, is only small inside but has a terrace on two sides with tables and chairs, to comfortably sit and relax, out of the Vietnamese heat. Each of us ordered a latte, and we were quite impressed with the coffee they delivered; we were even more impressed to find that they were roasting their own coffee on the premises.
Ci, the owner and Head Barista of Mia Coffee, had only ever drank local Vietnamese coffee before going to Europe, whilst studying accounting. A friend took him to an espresso bar,where he tried espresso for the first time – a moment that changed his life. Ci’s friend then offered to introduce him to a Greek coffee roaster named Cosmo, who had set up a roaster in Sweden. They met, and Ci spent time with Cosmo doing both barista training as well as roasting.
Returning to Hoi An with a career in accounting now definitely on the back burner, Ci set up his coffee shop and roaster. Like so many other baristas, Ci is passionate about his coffee and is now not only roasting coffee for his café, Mia Coffee, but also supplying coffee to the other cafés and restaurants throughout Hoi An. The quietly spoken Ci told us that “good baristas are quite hard to find in Hoi An and unfortunately my barista just left, and I am having trouble replacing him”. In the meantime, Ci is in the process of training his brother and father the skills needed to help him out while another barista can be recruited.
Coffee production is a major source of income for Vietnam and to protect the local coffee industry, the Vietnamese government places restrictions on bringing coffee beans into Vietnam. Because of this, the opportunity to import the popular Sumatra or Colombian beans isn’t possible, so Ci told us that he sources his Arabica coffee from local plantations and to ensure consistency in his product, he is working closely with the growers to improve quality, reduce the dependence on chemicals and produce a more consistent organic product. He also sources his milk locally and uses the high quality Dalat milk, produced in the highlands of Central Vietnam, exclusively in his café.
While we were there, unfortunately the kitchen was closed for renovation, so we didn’t have the opportunity to try his bakery items, but a visit to Mia Café makes for a welcome break from the heat and noise of Vietnam, and they do serve great coffee.
Roasters and Bakery
20 Phan Boi Chau
Tel: 0905 552061