Coffee call

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A delivery man makes coffee at the yellow minibar of Phin Café

There are cheap and expensive coffee shops everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City. To get a cup of coffee made by somebody else is as easy as taking a short walk from the home or office.

But as office life gets more hectic and demanding, it's harder for people to justify the time they might spend sitting in a café and drinking coffee when there is work to be done.

With ever more workers in a rush, more coffee shops have started making it to go and in some cases sending a kitted-out employee to prepare it at the customer's place of work.

It is only a few minutes' wait at the counter for freshly brewed take-away, and ten minutes for an order placed by phone.

Le Thi Thanh Thien, a busy magazine editor in District 3, prefers not to leave her desk in the afternoon. "When I want a cup of coffee, I simply make a call and wait for around ten minutes for it to come right to my office," she said.

Most of the cafés like Doppio, Passio, Flash and Cactus that make coffee on the spot are located in districts 1 and 3 in the heart of the city.

Location is what matters, and space is a minor consideration as most of their revenue comes from coffee drinkers with no time to sit down at a table for some leisurely sipping. That is why they are found near office buildings and such, where their likely customers work.

The bar in each shop stands front and center so that customers can watch their coffee being prepared. The chairs and tables are not too large and tend to have livery to match whichever brand it is.

Some places grind their beans in front of the customers to reassure them of the coffee's quality. "Customers these days are sharp-witted and much more careful about what they eat or drink," said Binh of Doppio Café.

Another noticeable point of these shops is their wide selection of beverages and snacks. Some of them even have set menus for lunch, making them restaurants in all but name.

Their drinks vary from Vietnamese traditional cà phê Ä‘en (black coffee with sugar) and cà phê sữa Ä‘á (iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk) to Western style coffee with cream and fresh milk, as well as tea and even smoothies.

To generate more custom, Phin Café operates several mobile coffee bars. They are easy to recognize. On the back of each yellow single-seated motorcycle is a mini bar with coffee, ice, milk and trays.

Phin Café's coffee beans come from Buon Me Thuot in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak and are ground and filtered in true Vietnamese fashion.

The Phin Café mobile coffee bars are usually stationed at strategic points in the mid-town area but they also respond to orders placed by phone (0919 47 11 88), usually within 15 minutes. The coffee is always made on the spot, be it the street or office.

Phin Café's owner Nghia Pham says he is thinking of allowing customers who so desire to grind the beans themselves and even make the coffee.

For some, delivery is the only way to get a decent coffee in working hours. Tran Huu Linh, who works for a construction company in District 1, said his job did not allow him time to have coffee at a bar so he was grateful that he could have it brought right to his desk and made in front of him.

The enthusiasm of the mobile coffee makers is a definite factor in the growing popularity of the service they offer.

Nguyen Thi Kim Anh, an office worker in District 3, finds them always polite and cordial. "When I call to order, even just one cup of coffee, or even when it's raining or burning hot outside, they are still willing to bring it right to my office with a friendly smile," she said.

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