Portrait of a Hoi An Barista

I do not envy this boy his job as a barista for Cộng Cà phê (Cong Coffee) – he is definitely underpaid and, at best, treated with indifference by his employer. Cộng Cà phê is a Hanoi-based chain that has outlets nationwide these days. As the boy’s work outfit suggests, Cộng Cà phê serves up a halcyon-days-of-war-and-hardcore-communism ambience for upmarket customers to bask in while sipping their coconut coffee. In fact “cộng” is one of the words combined with other words to mean “communism,” “communist,” and “communist party” in Vietnamese. It seems to have taken on this meaning because it sounds virtually identical to the Chinese character that combines with other characters to mean the same things in Chinese. In fairness, Cộng Cà phê serves up decent coffee and drinks.