It has been a long time since the French first introduced coffee to Vietnam in mid 19th century. Fortunately the Mother Nature has granted Vietnam good conditions to grow quality coffee. I always wonder, “Is that the reason why the French wanted to colonize my country so much, to use Vietnam as a coffee factory for mother nation?” The French had gone. The American had come and gone. Through the ups and downs of history coffee has established a distinctive position in Vietnamese culture. Generations of Vietnamese people have grown up with the smell and the taste of coffee in their houses, in cafes, in streets, everywhere.
Nowadays when you visit any midde and big-sized cities in Vietnam; you will see the streets full of cafes, from small rustic local stores to big franchises. We, the Vietnamese, come to cafes for various reasons. In cafes, we meet up with friends, discuss business or talk for leisure, stay alone and indulge ourselves in the beats of life, write, read, think, or just do nothing.
Vietnam has big local café chains like Trung Nguyen, Highlands, NYDC, and some international like Coffee Beans, Gloria Jeans, etc. However, I was so happy when Starbucks made its debut in Saigon last year. Starbucks is a part of my memory of the time I studied abroad. The brand is my very first encounter with American culture. I don’t remember when it started but I have been collecting Starbucks receipts wherever I go. My collection now has receipts from Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Franfurt, Prague, to Seoul, Macau, Bangkok, Jakarta, many many places. I always noted down the occasions on the receipts and keep them as travel memoirs.
Many of my friends in Saigon, mostly foreigners, joke about me staying in the “industrial” Starbucks instead of one beautiful outdoor café offering authentic Vietnamese coffee. Well, in fact I personally don’t feel that Starbucks coffee is special. By physical standards, their latte or cappuccino is just like other drinks from other stores. I come to Starbucks because of LOVE. Though my mind understands the spells of their brand and marketing strategies, my heart still prefers them! Incurable! Starbucks tickles many things inside me.
- I like the air full of coffee smell right after I open the door of any Starbucks store. (SENSE)
- I like the way the staff smile and ask for my name to write on the cup. Though they often mispelled Lana for Lanna, Lala, Lara, Lena, I still liked it. Sometimes, intead of my name, they wrote some cheerup messages. Me likey! (FEEL)
- Starbucks stores are decorated nicely and creatively. It makes me relax and let my thoughts flow. Moreover, I like Starbucks seasonal products such as Asian Dolce Latte, Red Bean Green Tea Latte, and always try new offers. (THINK)
- It encourages social media checkins. By campaigns, it also offers chances to take part in social activities, donations and charities. (ACT)
- It has tables and seats for many purposes of drinkers. If you come alone, you can hide yourself in the corner or you can join strangers in a long “community” table. (RELATE)
Now, for some months I am staying in Saigon (Vietnam), I try to balance my going-for-coffee habit. I still do Starbucks, but also explore other cafés with different air and touch. Le petit café dans le jardin à IDECAF (Institut D’Echanges Culturels Avec La France), c’est mon nouveau prefere. It’s right in French corner of Saigon, located in an old building from 1960s with romantic atmosphere. Un cafe s’il vous plait? 😀
– LANA –