Consider the speakeasy, the hidden little cocktail bar that required you to know the right person or secret password or entry in order to gain access into its lowkey sanctuary. It had a moment in the ’10s, right around the time cocktails themselves were experiencing a bit of a renaissance. It has waned a bit in popularity since then, but they still very much exist, even if no one really talks about them (as was the original idea).
And in Hanoi, Vietnam a coffee speakeasy of sorts has taken all the best parts of the concept and done away with the fluff. Residing in the upstairs space of a residential house, Citric meets Malic x Fleur de Lait is a weekend-only coffee bar that requires a reservation to find. There’s no secret handshake or pressing the third call button from the bottom referencing some nefarious Chicago gangster, just an intimate setting where customers can come enjoy a thoughtful cup of coffee. The hidden cafe is the work of Sprudge contributor Tung Nguyen and his partner Lan Ha, whose patisserie brand Fleur de Lait provides all the pastries to accompany Nguyen’s coffee making. In the bustling coffee scene in Hanoi, Citric meets Malic is adding another wonderful entry, if not a quiet one.
As told to Sprudge by Tung Nguyen.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
As you probably see from the name, Citric meets Malic x Fleur de Lait is a collaboration between two brands. Fleur de Lait is a patisserie brand that belongs to my partner Lan Ha, and she has been running it online for over two years already. Citric meets Malic is my newborn child, which I created intending to share great coffee with the local community in Hanoi, and raising their awareness on specialty coffee. I and Lan share the same vision about creating great products and making them available to people. Thus, Citric meets Malic x Fleur de Lait was born.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Citric meets Malic x Fleur de Lait opens only on the weekend from 10 AM to 6 PM. We are a “hidden space,” as we occupy the upper part of a residential house, and we do not publicize our address, but interested customers can message us on Facebook and Instagram to book a table. The concept might sound unfamiliar, but it is because we want to offer a place that customers who are interested in coffee and patisserie can come, sit back and enjoy our products.
What’s your approach to coffee?
We focus on quality and transparency. We always have at least five different origins on our menu at a time, because it is fun, and we want to have something for everyone as some of my customers are first-time coffee drinkers.
We source the good stuff, and we try our best to tell the stories behind the coffee we sold. My friend Will Frith of building once said that for a coffee to reach customers, it has touched 40 hands. So, I think our mission as a coffee shop is to let customers know about these hands that coffee has touched. Also, I think telling stories about coffee producers is an approachable way to introduce new drinkers to specialty coffee.
We also promote the use of high-quality Vietnamese coffee. Coffee used in our house espresso blends and ca phe sua da are sourced and roasted by our friends from Bosgaurus Coffee Roasters and 96B Cafe and Roastery (previously 96B Experiment). Now and then, I chat with the producers behind the coffee, to give them feedback and get updates from them.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
Good coffee needs great equipment to shine, that is why we choose to work on a Decent Espresso Machine, paired with a newly released Levercraft Ultra Grinder. We have a Breville Dual Boiler as our backup machine for milk steaming during peak hours.
On the filter coffee side, we set up a bunch of Hario V60 Immersion Dripper Switch with Acaia scales. We love the V60 Immersion Switch—it is fuss-free, repeatable, and capable of delivering great coffee every time.
How is your project considering sustainability?
Being in a production country means we can use the locally grown coffee here, as a result, our coffee has a low carbon footprint. We also encourage customers to drink coffee black to reduce dairy consumption, and therefore reduces the environmental impact from dairy products—in fact, most of our sales come from filter coffee, I guess it is because filter coffee pairs really well with patisserie from Fleur de Lait.
Also, our Decent Espresso Machine doesn’t have a boiler but it is on-demand heating, so we save a lot of energy in the process.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We opened our doors by February this year, but it has been followed by lots of hiccups as the fourth wave of COVID approaching Vietnam. We have been under lockdown since July, so we just try to stay safe for now and keep our fingers crossed to the day we can reopen.