Spilling The Beans: Uncovering Vientiane’s Hidden Coffee Houses
The volcanic soil of the South around the Bolaven Plateau has made coffee one of Laos’ largest exports. Inside the country, a sophisticated coffee culture is growing. Sabaidee Magazine followed the beans to some of their lesser-known destinations in Vientiane, away from the daily grind.
Right in the heart of downtown Vientiane, Le Trio is a slick operation with one purpose: to make the best possible coffee. There is no food and there are only a few chairs, with the art-deco influenced space housing a huge German roasting machine. The cafe works directly with small Lao producers to source both Robusta and Arabica beans sustainably and ethically. The 20,000 kip coffees are the most expensive on this list but they are also the best by leagues. In the ultimate flattery, other cafes in Vientiane buy Le Trio’s beans to use themselves. Shelves running along the wall are overflowing with coffee machines and equipment, mugs and various blends of Le Trio beans for sale. Free Wi-Fi.
T: 020 2255 3552 A: Setthathirath Road W: facebook.com/letriocoffee Open: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm
Delight Coffee’s interior has been cleverly designed. Cosy booths running along one wall comfortably seat four and keep conversations enclosed so the small room doesn’t get too noisy. This – along with a solid Wi-Fi network and power points for charging laptops – makes Delight a great place to work. The coffee, a blend of medium-roasted Arabica and Robusta beans from Laos, is 18,000 kip. Iced coffees are a little cheaper, and there’s an array of frappe flavours to choose from. Chocolate muffins in the glass display at the front are a nice accompaniment. The 35,000 kip pizzas are perfect for one. The Asian-style noodle dishes are very flavourful and the seafood is fresh.
T: 030 900 3781 A: Lao-Thai Road W: facebook.com/delightcoffee.laos Open: Daily 7am-8pm
Baan Tonmali Cake
Baan Tonmali Cake is strange and wonderful, hidden on a road less known to expats and tourists. It’s full of odd quirks, from the koi fish pond in the dining area to the options on the fresh juice menu, which include “Eyes’ Lover” and “Fresh Me Up!” Strange names aside, all are very tasty. The coffee is very good and well-priced at 10,000 kip. A cup pairs superbly with the array of fresh-baked cakes including Oreo Banoffee and Red Velvet. The beans are imported from Thailand. All the staff speak excellent English and are very attentive. The Thai food menu is simple and hearty, and the food stays cheap even when it includes ingredients like crab. Free Wi-Fi.
T: 021 480 210 A: Phonpapao Road W: facebook.com/baantonmalicake Open: Daily 8am-8pm
Begonia Cafe lies at the end of a narrow dirt track, surrounded by a groomed flower garden. The interior design is fantastic. Antique phones, teller machines, record players and lamps are scattered on shelves and tables around the room and decorative umbrellas hang upside-down from the ceiling. The coffee is great, brewed with an Italian machine using Saffron brand beans from Luang Prabang. The cafe has plans to begin roasting its own beans soon. Delicious slices of crepe cake are 25,000 kip and the flavours are rotated regularly — recent varieties have been mango, orange and coconut. There’s Wi-Fi access. A pleasant jazz playlist tinkles quietly.
T: 020 5555 5082 A: Soi 4 off Nongbone Road, before it turns left towards That Luang W: facebook.com/pages/Begonia-Café/124868954261514 Open: Monday-Saturday 9am-5.30pm
This article was originally printed in Sabaidee Magazine, Issue 18, July 2014. You can pick up Sabaidee Magazine free from cafes, restaurants, spas and hotels across Vientiane, and stay up to date with their latest articles and local events through their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sabaideemagazine.
Words & Photos by James Elton-Pym