Like people, coffee shops these days come in all shapes and sizes. What started off life as small establishments down quiet alleys has now become a means to showcase one’s creative prowess and style. Gone are the days where small nooks were the norm, some coffee shops are now the size of warehouses and sit by some of the busiest streets in town no less. These new contemporary shops have their merits of course, but at the end of the day, the small traditional coffee shop has a charm of its own.
There was one coffee shop in Hoi An that seemed to draw everyone in for its simplicity and quality; pictures of it were all over Instagram and articles online constantly raved about it. Popular as it was, it was very tricky to find. We spent an hour cycling around looking for the elusive shop and were just about to throw in the towel when we spotted a narrow alley next to Bao Diep Tailor. Crossing our fingers, we cycled our way down to find the shop we had been looking for: The Espresso Station.
A small orange house with blue windows, The Espresso Station was the epitome of a hidden gem. From the look and feel of it, the shop seemed extremely promising; the smell of coffee wafted through the air and a row of bikes lined the path leading to it. You would think that its secluded spot would hinder people from finding it, but as it turned out, the place was packed with patrons quietly chattering away over coffee.
Things are kept pretty simple at The Espresso Station; some outdoor seating, a couple indoor tables, and a small baristas’ counter. Design wise, the shop stayed true to its Indochine roots while incorporating some quirkier features such as a mural of Walter White busy in his lab. No illegal activities here though, Walt was busy brewing some coffee.
Serving only the best Vietnamese specialty coffee from the highlands of Dalat, everything is roasted on site in the coffee roaster opposite to the baristas’ counter. Although the weather called for a hot drink, an iced coconut coffee sounded divine to me, with the requisite hot latte and Americano of course. True to its goal of serving only the best, the coffee was smooth and aromatic and it was no wonder why some people went as far as saying this was the best place to get coffee in Hoi An. If the cycling and exploring worked up an appetite, their menu has a selection of delicious sandwiches, snacks, and granolas that you can munch on alongside your coffee.
So why is one of Hoi An’s most renowned coffee shop in a narrow, almost undetectable alley? The story goes that a man named King decided to leave behind the hustle and bustle of Saigon to move to the idyllic town of Hoi An. Passionate about coffee, he rented out part of his grandmother’s home in 2015 and turned it into one of the town’s most beloved coffee joints. Since then the shop has been churning out some of the best coffee in town and has earned a spot in the hearts of expats and tourists alike.
Though it took some extreme sleuthing to find it, the effort was well worth it in the end. Sometimes we’re let down by places that are so hyped about online yet turn out to be nothing special in real life, but The Espresso Station certainly wasn’t the case. No flashy sign or flamboyant décor here; wholesome coffee and good fare were enough to draw in the crowds. It just goes to show that while the coffee shop is ever evolving, there’s nothing wrong about going back to basics when the right people are running the show.