Sidewalk iced tea – an indispensable part of Hanoians’ life

A familiar image presents everywhere from small alleys to main streets, beside large commercial centers or luxury restaurants and cafes, which reminds everyone of Hanoi: sidewalk iced tea.

Modest shops of sidewalk iced tea and groups of people enjoying their glass of the drink are an ordinary part of the capital city but memorable to many people. 

A simple beverage

Perhaps nowhere in the country are there more sidewalk iced tea shops than in Hanoi. They might be the most popular kind of shops here. Any place in Hanoi within a few steps around, sidewalk iced tea can be easily found.

Sidewalk iced tea in Hanoi; Hanoians' sidewalk tea shop; Hanoians' life, Hanoian drinks From early morning until late night, sidewalk iced tea is a part of the people’s daily life. Photo: Ngoc Vu

Not in an ideal location or having a fancy design, right on the sidewalk, just a teapot, some glasses and a few plastic stools, a basic sidewalk iced tea shop is set up. Some ‘more luxurious’ ones sell peanut candies, sunflower seeds, chewing-gum, bottled drinks.

From early morning until late night, this is a part of the people’s daily life. It is a fresh drink after breakfast to start the day, a relaxing beverage for the office’s lunch break and a chill sip with friends after work or going out in the evening. 

The customers of sidewalk iced tea are very diverse. They are both men and women, young and old and do different jobs, from office workers to janitors. And no specific dress code is required. Customers come here in casual T-shirt, smart dress and suit.

With only a few pennies, anyone can have a seat and enjoy the drink as long as possible. 

Sidewalk iced tea in Hanoi; Hanoians' sidewalk tea shop; Hanoians' life, Hanoian drinks Former Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Pereric Högberg had a tea at a sidewalk tea shop in Hanoi. Photo Manh Thang

A convenient pleasure 

However, cheap price is not the reason why sidewalk iced tea is favored by Hanoians who are known for the country’s most picky eating manner.  

Although fancy cafes are mushrooming, sidewalk iced tea shops still have their loyal customers who are attracted by the convenience, comfort and fun that can only be found here.

A busy worker can always stop by the sidewalk for an iced tea to quench his thirst and tiredness for a while. Those who are waiting for someone on a date usually take an iced tea in the meantime. Iced tea is also an ideal option to relax when people have free time, either alone or with someone. 

Sidewalk iced tea in Hanoi; Hanoians' sidewalk tea shop; Hanoians' life, Hanoian drinks With only a few pennies, anyone can have a seat and enjoy the drink as long as possible. Photo: Ngoc Vu

Particularly, it is also a typical pleasure of the local people for spending time with friends while looking out to the streets and watching passersby. At sidewalk iced-tea store, people talk about just everything from petrol price, house fire, terrorism, diseases, football, to problems at work, conflict with the neighbors or love stories. 

They are talking in groups, even with strangers, for something in mutual interest, creating a lively ambiance. 

Obviously, sidewalk iced tea is a perfect beverage to cool down the scorching heat of the tropical summer. But these shops are also busy in winter when hot tea is replaced, another way for people to enjoy their favorite drink in the coldness. 

Thereby, all four seasons, the local people can have a tea on the sidewalk, contributing to a painting of a simple but charming Hanoi’s daily life. 

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