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13 October, 2010

Weasel Coffee in Hanoi. Vietnam

Weasel Coffee in Hanoi, Vietnam  - The most anticipated thing I was looking forward to on visiting this amazing country. Having heard about this famous exclusive coffee, I was yearning to try it at all costs. So right before my trip to Hanoi in April 2010, I had Googled the coffee locations only to find out that there were originals and also the knockoffs being sold. Arriving in Hanoi after a fabulous trip to Halong Bay, I set foot on the streets  of the Old Quarter and made my way in search of the famous Cafe Mai where the Weasel Coffee was sold.

Thinking that the cafe would be easy to find around the Old Quarter of Hanoi, I was disappointed that no one seemed to know of this place. Walking around aimlessly and asking locals every ten minutes, I was  replied with shakes of the head or simply being ignored due to the language factor. Nevertheless my journey continued with my google printout and town map in hand.

Weasel Coffee in a grinding machine in Hanoi

Finally after walking out of the Old Quarter and into an unknown area near a lake, a kind Vietnamese lady who spoke very little English showed me directions to the shop which was a couple of blocks down. Eagerly walking in the hot afternoon, I accidentally passed the coffee outlet and wondered where it really was as there were a few other cafes along this street. I finally made one more stop and asked one of them where the Cafe Mai was, the gentleman pointed to a few shops in the opposite direction without saying a word.

Cafe Mai in Hanoi, Vietnam

Finally, I had reach my Mecca of Coffee which was highly recommended by some local Vietnamese blog writers. This particular type of coffee is also known to the locals as Paris Mai and is noted to be the most expensive coffee in Vietnam. So, what is Weasel Coffee? This exotic blend of coffee beans is eaten by the local civet cats where they are then passed through the digestive system. It is also known as Kopi Luwak or Civet Cat Coffee in other parts of the world.

Weasel Coffee Beans in Hanoi, Vietnam

"A civet eats the berries for their fleshy pulp. In its stomach, proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet's intestines the beans are then defecated, keeping their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness, widely noted as the most expensive coffee in the world." - Explanation taken from Wikipedia

 
Weasel Coffee after being processed

Having secured a place at the Cafe Mai, I choose to sit at one of the small round tables just by the walkway. It was really humid that day so I ordered a iced cold coke to start. A simple menu was given to me and glancing through it, there were apparently a number of coffee choices to choose from. Strangely there was no indication of Weasel Coffee on the menu so I got a little worried and called the waitress over. She did not speak much English but when I tried to ask her about the Weasel Coffee she looked confused and  instead called the owner over which was a Vietnamese lady in her mid thirties who spoke basic English. Finally she understood what I described and told me that it was called Paris Mai in Vietnam and without hesitation, I had ordered two of them. One hot and one with ice.

Vietnamese Coffee with Ice

When the coffee was served, it came in one of those small metal Vietnamese drip filters known locally as cà phê phin where the freshly grounded coffee is contained inside and hot water is poured into the device and then covered. The filtering process can take up to five minutes before it is ready to be consumed. Condensed milk is also served added to the bottom of the glass before you start your process. Once done, you simply stir it all in and you have your expensive cup of Vietnamese Weasel Coffee. 

I had ordered an iced one so it was served all ready and the two flavours were almost identical. For the coffee lovers, you would enjoy this hot as for me, I love to have iced cold coffee and this was heaven for me. Never before had I tried coffee that tasted so good. The closest comparison I had to this was some Lao Coffee in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Coffee prices in Hanoi

After spending about an hour here trying out three different coffees, it was time to take away some of the Weasel Coffee. A price board was seen with the various coffee grades and prices in kilograms. Paris Mai costs 600,000 Vietnamese Dong  per kilogram which is about US$30.70 so this is really cheap considering I was told that the Weasel Coffee can go up to the hundreds of US dollars. Apart from the exotic coffee being sold here, there were a variety of other blends as well. Seems like some of the locals love to buy their coffee fresh by the 100 gram packets from these cafes. They were seen arriving by cars and bikes to get freshly grounded coffee from the special take away counter of the Cafe Mai.

Local Vietnamese coffee in tin storage

Cafe Mai branch is Hanoi, Vietnam

I ended up buying 500 grams of the Weasel Coffee from Hanoi and in 100 gram packets each. They were for souvenirs for close friends and the end result - They all asked me when I was returning to Hanoi as they now wanted 1kg packets!

Address to Cafe Mai, Hanoi
52, Nguyên Hồng,
Du-Ha Noi,
Vietnam 
Telephone +84 4 8227713

If you are headed to Hanoi, you may want to check out some of the other popular places for Vietnamese Coffee;

Dak-Linh Café
This nice café is located on the southwest short of Hoan Kiem Lake, quite hidden in the trees. It’s probably the best place to start your morning: enjoy your coffee while watching people exercising in the park or doing Tai-Chi.

Trung Nguyen Café
Among the many coffee varieties offered by this very popular café by the Hoan Kiem Lake, you will also find the famous weasel coffee here apart from the general strong coffee.

Café Nhan
The café is located in the heart of the nightlife area and is very popular among young locals. There are nice private nooks for those seeking intimacy and interesting balconies for those who like to do a bit of people watching by night.

Hanoi’s Coffee Street
Hang Hanh (Coffee Street) is located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It’s a very popular location filled with cafes and everyone looking for their caffeine fix: businessmen on their way to work, backpackers reading the travel guides in search of new ideas and the motorbikes’ drivers looking for clients. The best experience is to sit on one of the really low stools and enjoy your coffee watching life pass by. Again, do check if you are getting the right coffee from this area as there have been reports of normal coffee being passed off as Weasel Coffee here.

Similar articles about Hanoi from MalaysiaAsia;
Hanoi Street Life Picture 

I have also tried the Kopi Luwak Coffeein Bali, Indonesia in June 2011.

The coffee culture is one of the local lifestyle here as there are countless places selling them around the Old Quarter and around Hanoi in general. I was staying at the Impressive Hotel in the Old Quarter area so moving around on foot was very easy for me. From modern day cafes to roadside squat-down stalls, they all taste really good. The best in my honest opinions are from some of the specialty stalls around the old quarter where you get some really good Weasel Coffee in Hanoi.
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15 comments:

Traveling Ted said... 14 October 2010 00:59

Hanoi can be a very confusing place to find anything. It is no help when it is really hot too. Glad that you found what you were looking for and can help others not get lost.

David Jr said... 14 October 2010 02:58

Thanks Ted, I do hope this will help others 'Not Get Lost' while in the Old Quarter especially. I did spend a good amount of time wandering the Old Quarter during my stay there so after day 2, it got pretty easy :)

Regards,
David

Lily Riani said... 15 October 2010 00:11

i prefer hcmc over hanoi though but i have to say, their coffee is great

JIPP said... 15 October 2010 11:15

I heard about this weasel coffee before but apparently it is not that popular in Vietnam, at least among locals. I tried to find it when I was in Hanoi and I couldn't find it. I probaly didn't take as much effort as you did but then, just as Travelling Ted said, it really is difficult to find anything in Vietnam, thanks to the language barrier and their 'shrug offs' to any questions.

Wilson Ng said... 17 October 2010 01:04

had it in Bali, dun really like it. its very expensive as well

David Jr said... 20 October 2010 16:00

Jipp, according to my friends in Hanoi, they cater this to the tourist and yes, it is not as popular as thought. Then again, I have to say it was an experience that will be remembered for life.

Wilson, I will try it in Bali next year :)

Steve said... 22 October 2010 12:34

I am Vietnamese, and i really love our coffe, after reading your great article, I follow your address and found Cafe Mai . It was great anyway, but i still like Trung Nguyen coffee and highland coffee :)

David Jr said... 24 October 2010 12:49

Hey Steve, glad you found this useful and found Cafe Mai. I understand that you like the other coffees there as I tried them too and found them quite similar and nice.

David

Thomas said... 2 November 2010 11:59

Hi David,

I recently wrote a short blog about weasel coffee on ContemporaryNomad and linked to your article since you had already done all the research. Very entertaining, I loved it!

When I looked through the Wikipedia article, I came across a reference which I thought was very interesting and, perhaps, eye-opening. Check out the article about weasel coffee on Vietnam Business News.

What do you think? Have we all been tricked?

Ho Chi Minh said... 27 February 2011 21:48

I have tried this expensive Cat Poo coffee (aka Civet Cat Coffee) in Bali and I find it so-so only. But I am still open to try this weasel coffee when I visit Vietnam.

Kimtahee said... 27 December 2011 23:05

I like weasel coffee like Mr' Phong private reserve or daily delight, in hanoi coffee street

pearlie said... 1 July 2012 19:12

I was lucky. I wanted to buy some coffee as gifts but I wasn't actively looking for any shop. I just found myself walking past one! If anyone is interested, you can get it here: 9A, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.

leungkeilee said... 5 October 2012 09:52

Just back from Ha Noi, now their Paris Mai is selling 124,000,000 d/kg.

Julia Smith said... 22 May 2014 12:45

I just get lost in Old Quarter causing finding to buy this coffee. lol. I bought 1kg at Huong Mai coffee after smelling and trying it. I think I will come back this store again.

AlexSandra Anderson said... 23 May 2014 18:11

I noted the address I bought Weasel coffee in Ha Noi, Viet Nam causing I want to buy it again. I don't have friend in Viet Nam, this store's address is 58 Ma May, Old Quarter. I think you know causing this street is most famous in Ha Noi. How can I buy it again???? :(

Item Reviewed: Weasel Coffee in Hanoi. Vietnam Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: David Jr
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