The first generation of Vietnamese coffee houses around Seattle catered directly to a single core audience: Vietnamese immigrants in search of the strong Robusta coffee they loved in a place that felt like home. But, starting last year, a new wave of Vietnamese coffee shops hit Seattle, aiming to share the Vietnamese coffee culture with a broader audience while combining it with that of the Pacific Northwest.
“There’s a fully caffeinated Vietnamese coffee movement sweeping America,” Dan Q. Dao wrote recently in a feature in Imbibe Magazine that spotlighted shops around the country, including Phin and Hello Em, both in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. Most Vietnamese coffee drinks revolve around the slow-dripping filter that sits atop a single glass, called a phin (and from which that shop takes its name). But, “There’s more to Vietnamese coffee culture than just the way it’s made — it’s how it’s enjoyed,” Dao explains, demonstrating why the shops fill more of a need than just grabbing a cà phê sữa đá at a bánh mì shop. “In Vietnam, coffee can be fast, but it tends to be a more leisurely affair.”