Will Frith

» As it Cools

A blog about the emerging specialty coffee industry in Vietnam, as well as the growing third-wave coffee culture in Saigon

B&B Espresso, Downtown Đà Lạt

Cute little cafe, about 1/5 the size of most shops I found a cute little coffee bar on a side street in the heart of downtown Đà Lạt called B&B Espresso, run by a shy, dapper young fellow named Bảo, who opened just one month ago. He immediately sunk his head into his shoulders when I asked if I could take pictures, so I figured I would just photograph the coffee and cafe. The espresso was definitely more carefully prepared than most places around town - freshly ground to order, carefully packed and he watched the pour, stopping just short of over-extraction. This definitely could have been better, as I counted about 10-12 seconds for the shot, and the grind looked very coarse. The whole-bean coffee wasn't blasted black and oily, but definitely darker than I think it could have been. It tasted like a lower-quality cultivar that dominated the flavor profile (my guess was Catimor, and he assured me there was absolutely no Robusta in the blend), which Bảo couldn't help, lending burnt-tobacco and earthy flavors in the cup. The shop is partially owned by the coffee supplier, Vĩnh Ích, located near downtown Đà Lạt. He gave me a card and invited me to visit them (a rarity in that side of the biz, I suppose I'll find out just how much of the operation they'll let me see).

3.5 oz double, 12-second shot. Not terrible, but definitely Catimor.

While I was there, he served about 5 to-go blended coffee drinks, along with a latte to someone, which was layered a-la 1990s US Specialty with a thick, crunchy white foam. I asked him if he could pour latte art, or if he was even interested. His eyes opened wide and he asked me if I could show him a pour. My outer voice said, "of course! I'd be happy to!" while my inner voice said, "Frith, you haven't touched an espresso machine in two months, and you know nothing about the quality of the milk here." Nerves started to make my hands shake, but I immediately shifted into teacher-mode. I very slowly and methodically showed him all the steps I was taking and poured a half-decent tulip (wasn't really good enough for me to photograph, but it got the point across). This was enough to put a huge smile on his face. He took a picture and a sip. Definitely impressed that it was not only pretty, but tastier than what he was used to serving (his own words).

The bar and interior were cute, and I was definitely impressed with how they used the limited available space. No visible clutter, and there was a tablet computer sunk into the counter. The tablet was only used to control the music, but with the right software could easily take over their current hand-written, cash-only format.

Cute, compact and clean

Bảo has taken me up on my offer to show him how to steam and pour later this week, which I hope will lead to a shot-pulling session. We'll see what the next few days bring!