Ba Lù Cafe: Cholon 70-Year-Old Cafe Where You Can Sip Signature Chinese-Vietnamese Net Coffee

Ba Lù cafe – Cholon signature net coffee

Coffee plays an essential role in the daily life of many Vietnamese people. The Chinese-Vietnamese living in Cholon also have their own version of coffee, namely cà phê vợt, or cà phê vớ, meaning net coffee and sock coffee respectively.

Among many cafes in Cholon, Ba Lù Cafe has been much loved for more than half a century for its distinctive net coffee.

The coffee beans are roasted on site

Ba Lù Cafe is a coffee stall in Phùng Hưng Market
Image credit: Dao Tran

Situated in Chợ Phùng Hưng, also known as Chợ Thủ Đô of Cholon, Ba Lù is just as small as most food stalls and coffeehouses in town are.

However, don’t let its modest appearance fool you. Ba Lù Cafe is famous not only in Cholon but also across Ho Chi Minh City thanks to its original net coffee.

The coffee beans are roasted in front of the cafe
Image credit: Trương Đông Hải

At Ba Lù, the roasting of coffee beans takes place almost every day in a traditional way. Beans are added into a metal cylinder before the roaster rotates it in a big flame.

During the rotation process, additives such as bretel butter are added. When the beans are well roasted, the roaster will pour them on a canvas and spray liquor on the hot beans to enhance their flavor.

As the roasting process is conducted right on the market way in front of the cafe, if you’re lucky, you may have a chance to see it. When the beans get cooler, they will be ground and made into net coffee. The resulted coffee will be reddish-brown compared to totally black or dark brown like with regular coffee.

They are one of the first net coffee places in town

The coffee is brewed in a big heated pot and poured into smaller cups
Image credit: Dao Tran

Established in 1953, Ba Lù is among one of the first net coffee spots in Cholon. For about half a century, the cafe has established its reputation for good net coffee.

The recipe has stayed unchanged for more than 60 years, meaning the taste you are enjoying may even be older than you. Currently, the cafe only serves iced and hot black coffee, with or without condensed milk. Takeaways are available.

The technique of roasting coffee beans at Ba Lù has been conserved for many decades.
Image credit: Ba Lù coffee 

Noteworthily, the net coffee is a speciality of the Chinese immigrants in Vietnam and even in other countries. In Cholon, net coffee has gone beyond being a morning treat to become a symbol of the Chinese-Vietnamese heritage.

It reminds drinkers of a colorful community with its own culture and history, gradually becoming an essential part of Hồ Chí Minh City’s population. Ba Lù Cafe, as a long-rooted cafe, has highlighted the cultural significance of net coffee.

You can get a net coffee kit here

With this mini-pot and net, you can make your own net coffee at home
Image credit: Ba Lù coffee

Apart from having coffee at the cafe, you can also order a net coffee kit to make your own drink at home. Each kit includes a small ceramic pot and a net with a metal handle. This kit has the capacity for one or two cups of coffee. The price for a full kit is VND130,000 (~USD5.68). If the pot or the net gets broken, you can visit the cafe to buy a replacement.

Moreover, the cafe provides packaged roasted coffee beans and ground coffee for those who love the original taste of Ba Lù net coffee. Currently, you can pick among three options: roasted coffee beans, ground coffee for the Vietnamese filter, and ground coffee for the net kit. Each of them costs about VND135,000 (~USD5.90) per 500 grams.

The net coffee skits and packaged coffee are also available on Shopee. You may get in them in combos for better prices.

Ba Lù Cafe

For about 70 years, Ba Lù Cafe has been a favourite net coffee spot both for the locals and many tourists. Despite its reputation, the cafe still keeps its original recipe and modest appearance.

Visit not only to enjoy the interesting speciality but also to experience a cultural trait of the Vietnamese-Chinese community in Cholon.

Ba Lù Cafe / Ông Lù – Bà Huề Cafe
Opening hours:
2AM – 5PM, Daily
Address: 193 Phùng Hưng Street, Ward 14, District 5, Hồ Chí Minh City
(Note: find a place to park your vehicle properly before walking to the cafe in the market)

Also check out:

Cover image adapted from Trương Đông Hải, Eddie Wan, and Ba Lù coffee.

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Duy Nguyen

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