23.01.2022, 20:37

The coffee shop customers only know the address after booking a table

HANOI – The coffee shop has a business model of “open sesame”, without publicizing the address and only informing guests who have booked a table.

When passing Citric meets Malic in the alley on Nguyen Van Cu street, not many people know it’s a coffee shop. The door is closed, the sign is not on, you can only go inside if you book a table in advance and receive directions to the shop. The owner is Nguyen Tung, born in 1994, passionate about coffee, has written many analytical articles in the famous coffee magazine Sprudge. The name of Tung’s shop is quite difficult to translate into Vietnamese, but it can be understood as a meeting between two common sour flavors in coffee: Citric is the sour taste of lemons and oranges and Malic is the sweet and sour taste of apples and pears.

Passion and dedication to coffee

Tung has only been making coffee for a year, opening a shop to sell combined with his wife’s bakery downstairs. Before that, he was one of the people who applied for the German GIZ fund to develop domestic coffee in Da Lat. According to this project, Tung and his friends research and cultivate so that more people can choose Vietnamese coffee, eliminating the thought that “Vietnamese coffee is only good when making instant coffee” in the third coffee wave – when the world started to pay attention to the quality of coffee from the origin, the farm, instead of letting the responsibility for a good cup of coffee depend entirely on the barista (barista) as before.

Passionate about coffee, Tung is also the copyright holder for “Aeropress” – a documentary about everything around the popular coffee maker. He made the subtitles himself, then showed it at a coffee shop on Trung Hoa Street. The profits he makes are donated to organizations that find solutions for new coffee varieties.

The coffee shop customers only know the address after booking a table
Tung “blows” passion into coffee cups. Photo: Trung Nghia

Tung has been to a few countries around the world such as the US, Japan, Korea… and observed coffee culture. For him, coffee in the US is not really good because it is often sold under branded chains. This solves the problem of mouth-watering coffee without the “substance”. For Tung, a cup of coffee is delicious when it has a bit of a sour taste, because the characteristic of arabica seeds is sour. It seems that most Americans do not like sour taste, so coffee is often roasted darker to overcome this taste. Returning to Asia, Tung said this is the place to enjoy the most expensive coffees in the world. Asians tend to prefer branded goods to Westerners, and so does coffee. “For example, if you want to buy high-class coffee in bulk, you have to buy enough quantity, like 100-200 kg, but you have to sell 700,000 VND for a cup,” explained Tung.

Only open on weekends

After the project with GIZ, Tung opened a cafe to continue to nurture and maintain his passion. With the current model, the couple can support, always feel connected without too much interference in each other’s work.

A special thing is that Tung’s shop is only open for two weekends. Explaining this, he said that cakes and coffee both need to be prepared for a long time, in which cakes must be prepared 2 days in advance. He changes the menu of the restaurant every week, so during the week is a test period. Sometimes just a slight difference in the brewing process can make the cup of coffee not good enough and have to be re-tested. Therefore, diners coming here may never be able to drink the same coffee with the same taste twice. The menu is always changing so that guests can experience more and learn more about the world of coffee. He wants customers to see that in addition to this delicious coffee, when you come back to the shop next time, you can drink another type that may be even better.

In addition, Tung also wants to create a space for everyone to relax completely and focus on enjoying coffee. During the week, everyone will be busy and go to work, it is difficult to have a relaxed mood to enjoy a cup of coffee deeply. Anh’s shop is also designed in an elegant Indochinese style, both airy and cozy, creating a comfortable feeling for long sitting.

The cafe of taste

Tung always ensures that the filter coffee menu (hot brewed coffee/filter coffee) every week will have 3 types: the kind that is comfortable for everyone; kind of bar, sour and sour close to the fruit taste; one with a clear flavor, which as soon as you click it you can associate it with a certain flavor.

Tung’s ability to express and feel the taste is the highlight that keeps diners excited. “When I opened the shop, I wanted to bring quality drinks. I don’t sell coffee simply, I sell flavors. However, in order to bring the flavor, I like to everyone, I need to convey it,” Tung said. To share. For example, the menu of coffee shops usually only lists the ingredients, for example, this drink has peach, strawberry, lemon… Meanwhile, he often describes the taste in a specific way and uses many adjectives. in the menu, for example this coffee has a sweet taste, or drink it “morning”. Tung thinks coffee is like perfume, has layers of incense and smells, drinking coffee is like an art. He thinks that he is not in 5-10% of people who are sensitive to scents in the world, but he needs to go through the process of practicing and using similar comparison methods.

Coffee and cake at the shop. Photo: Trung Nghia

“Iced milk coffee as a dessert”

The highlight of the shop is filter coffee, but Tung’s favorite drink is espresso. To drink a cup of filter coffee is very easy, it is difficult to drink a bad cup, but the story is opposite with espresso. “The baristas I know all say that you have to be very lucky to be able to drink two espressos in the same year,” Tung confided. That’s because espresso is so dense, just a little change can make the coffee a little too bitter, or a little too sour. Having been able to drink good espresso twice in his life and still have not found a better cup, Tung said he is becoming more and more demanding and demanding with his drinks.

Talking about Vietnamese coffee, Tung said that iced milk coffee is an attractive coffee because it is both a drink and a food. This coffee has a balance between bitterness and sweetness. The glass of iced milk is very comparable, drinking can easily feel each layer of flavor, each layer of flavor is very mouth-watering. He sees iced milk coffee as close to a dessert, making you feel like you’re drinking and like you’re eating something.

“Open sesame”

Sprudge magazine once published an article about Tung restaurant with a special business model: not publicizing the address and only giving to customers who book a table in advance. Understandably, his cafe is like the fairy tale “O Sesame Open”. Tung chooses such a business model to control the number of customers. Currently, during the Covid-19 epidemic, the shop is quieter, but before that there were times when the restaurant did not have tables to serve. Tung does not want guests to come but have to leave because of the lack of tables. In addition, he also does this to limit guests coming just to take pictures to check-in because once they have booked a table and taken the time to come to the shop, diners will want to spend more time and focus on enjoying coffee. If you request to reserve a table in advance but still post the public address, it is inevitable that the number of guests will accidentally come without paying attention to the restaurant’s request.

Tung’s coffee corner. Photo: Trung Nghia

Making coffee, outsiders may find it simple, just follow the recipe, but according to Tung, this is a tiring job. Ingredients change daily, you must always balance so that the coffee cups do not lose “substance”. Moreover, the barista also has to stand all day. He shared that he didn’t drink and think about coffee every day because if he did, it would be scary and difficult to maintain his passion. Tung personally does not criticize the virtual check-in culture, but he hopes that everyone who comes to the shop will drink all the coffee they ordered. It would be a treat for any barista.

Tung shared, the shop has many such requests, but the business is still stable. Only open on weekends, the profit earned is enough to maintain the shop and the couple’s life. He doesn’t understand why people know about the shop when he’s not advertising, but the word-of-mouth effect can be attributed to the thoughtful posts about coffee knowledge and the state of the coffee market on Facebook and Instagram. “When you appear on the Internet long enough, people will know you,” Tung said.

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