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The 80-year coffee in Saigon preserves special brewing technique

Existing for more than 80 years and considered the oldest coffee shop in the middle of prosperous Saigon, Cheo Leo entertains guests with coffee made from rackets and mini clay pots as an ancient Chinese brewing style. It is the special process that makes the cafe a must-visit place in the city. Sitting roadside on little stools with locals all around, while enjoying the authentic coffee and the buzz at the alley is all you can expect when being here.

Cheo Leo, the oldest Saigon coffee shop

In 1938, Mr. Vinh Ngo – a member of the Nguyen royal family – left the imperial city Hue and went to Ban Co (district 3) – Sai Gon to set up a business. He learned the unique Chinese way of making coffee and then started a small cafe, namely Cheo Leo.

After more than 80 years of standing firmly in the heart of the city, the cafe still retains the old style: an old 2-storey house; both inside and outside place a few simple plastic tables and stools, no air conditioning nor decorations. There is also no spacious parking space, but guests’ vehicles will be put on both sides of the alley; If running out of parking space, they can send it to a neighbor’s house nearby, for 5,000 VND/motorbike. In case the coffee shop is full, you are likely to experience the awesome concept of table sharing with friendly residents.

For more than half a century, Cheo Leo’s kitchen and living room ceiling has been covered with a dark brown of coffee vapor. There, the taste of this irresistible drink has not changed from generation to generation.

Racket and clay pot – the unique method to make coffee

The coffee at Cheo Leo is normally called ca phe vot (racket), or ca phe bit tat (sock, which is one of the old cultural features of the Chinese community left in Saigon.

In the process, the ground coffee is filtered through a long cloth rack, brewed in a clay pot to bring out all the flavors. This first coffee liquid is continued to be stored on the kiln to finally result in a robust, earthy drink. The aroma is gentle, you can taste the subtleties and nuances of this delightful brew. To have a good batch of coffee, the owner must first store tap water in the jar for 2-3 days to settle the smell as the water source also determines a lot to the deliciousness of the coffee.

Currently, Cheo Leo serves a variety of coffees: hot, cold, black, with milk, or with condensed milk. Before the coffee, they bring iced jasmine tea to cleanse the palate. Still, the coffee is super strong, so if you are not into the caffeine rush, take note to order a weaker one. They are also willing to offer a mini-tour to see their one-of-the-kind process, and of course, allow visitors to take videos and photos.

  • Address: 109/36 Nguyen Thien Thuat, Ward 2, District 3, HCMC
  • Open: 5:15am – 6:45pm
  • Price: From 8,000 VND to 13,000 VND

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