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Petit Chinese herbal coffee in the centre of Saigon

February 01, 2021 | 16:54

Hidden inside Saigon's Chinatown, there is a quiet and petit cafe called "Cam Cam Cafe" with steamy hot coffee combined with Chinese herbs, which bring an unique and refreshing taste that makes guests come back for more.

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Coffee is served in a bowl instead of a cup at Cam Cam Kafe. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

Guests might be suspicious of the quasi-antique bowl of frothy coffee spiced up with Chinese herbs in a cafe in Saigon’s Chinatown, but end up won over by its taste.

The tucked away cafe, Cam Cam Kafe, is located on the second floor of apartment block No. 806/5E on Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 14, District 5. The drink has two main ingredients: coffee and Chinese herbs.

Dong Lam Thanh Tung, the 32-year-old owner of the coffee shop, brews common herbal spices like cinnamon, cloves and star anise, and blends the liquid with mint, coffee and sugar. The mixture is then whisked into a froth. Coffee is served cold with ice in a vintage bowl.

"When I was small, I watched TV and noticed Chinese often drank medicinal liquid and water in a bowl. I reckoned that was a good idea," Tung explained why he chooses bowls instead of cups to serve his coffee.

He also recommended iced coffee tastes better. "I tried making a hot one and added milk but it did not complement the Chinese herbal coffee," he said.

The coffee has the refreshing flavor of mint and slight bitterness of coffee beans. Staff can adjust the amount of added sugar as per the guest’s request.

Nhan Tran from District 2 was impressed with the taste: "This is the first time I have heard of or drunk this kind of coffee. It has a refreshing and original taste and is better than I thought."

Tung came up with this idea by chance when he caught the smell of ginseng from the residence of Chinese people while out with friends.

He said many people of Chinese origin live in apartments built in French colonial times, and the skylit buildings allow air flow from floor to floor so one cannot hide the smell of a boiling pot of ginseng brew.

"I still remember sitting with my friends, drinking coffee and getting struck by the fragrant scent of ginseng. I felt like I was a neighborhood resident," Tung recalled.

The cafe is near the landmark pagoda called "Ha Chuong Hoi Quan". While you are at it, visiting the pagoda and enjoying Chinese cuisine in Phung Hung market is not a bad choice either.

The little coffee shop has a capacity of 20 guests. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day.

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Playing guitar on the Cam Cam Kafe balcony. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

A bowl of coffee here costs VND35,000 ($1.52). There are also nearly 30 types of other drinks like juice, soda, and yogurt priced from VND20,000-75,000. Motorbike parking near the apartment building is VND10,000.

Chinese Herbs: Origin and Benefits

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Photo: Pinterest

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has evolved over thousands of years. TCM practitioners use various mind and body practices (such as acupuncture and tai chi) as well as herbal products to address health problems.

Chinese herbal products have been studied for many medical problems, including stroke, heart disease, mental disorders, and respiratory diseases (such as bronchitis and the common cold), and a national survey showed that about one in five Americans use them. Because many studies have been of poor quality, no firm conclusions can be made about their effectiveness. For more information about specific herbs, see NCCIH’s Herbs at a Glance Web page. You can find additional information on botanical (plant) dietary supplements on the Office of Dietary Supplements Web site.

Reports and studies of herbal products used in TCM have found a variety of safety issues.

Some Chinese herbal products have been found to be contaminated with undeclared plant or animal material; drugs (such as the blood-thinner warfarin and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent diclofenac); heavy metals (such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium); pesticides or compounds called sulfites, which could cause asthma or severe allergic reactions; or incorrect herbs, some of which have caused organ damage.

Chinese medicine greatly rely on Chinese herbal tea & tonics. Since the tea is made from botanical and plant sources; it has high health benefits that claim to strengthen immune system & improve general well being.

Rich in polyphenols, Chinese herbal tea helps fighting diseases. Polyphenol is a naturally occurring chemical in plants that is hailed for its anti-oxidant properties. Anti-oxidants help prevent cell damage and may play a role in prevention against a number of diseases from weight loss to diabetes, high blood pressure and even cancer.

Chinese Tea help Eliminate Toxins: Since all types of tea are diuretic, they help eliminate toxins from the body. They keep you hydrated whilst detoxing the body.

Help with Weight Loss: Green tea help burns fat rapid. As per scientific research hot tea drinkers have low BMI and a smaller waist line as compared to those who do not consume tea regularly. Agarwood tea has been known to promote healthy weight loss besides controlling sugar & high blood pressure.

Helps Prevent Heart Diseases: Chinese herbal tea is rich in polyphenols that are known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that keep several diseases such as liver dysfunction & heart diseases at bay.

Increased Muscle Endurance: Taking green tea strengthens your muscles. It keeps you fueled and support your longer workouts to help lose weight steadily.

Regulates Sugar: Compounds found in plant based products help metabolising insulin that regulates blood sugar efficiently. This Gluco lower tea containing a mix of chrysanthemum, stevia, and ginseng etc help controls elevated blood sugar level, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Strengthen Gums & Teeth: Green tea contains fluoride that strengthens teeth & gums and prevent plaque. However, excessive consumption of black tea may leave your teeth stained & turn them yellow in the long run. Always brush your teeth before bed.

Improved Digestion: Some Chinese herbal tea such as bitterguord tea help stimulates stomach acid to aid in smooth digestion.

The ritual of making Chinese tea and sipping through a cup of it is itself a relaxing experience. It helps unwind stress, reduce anxiety & keeps your body fueled for the day. Turn a mediating music in the background & make it a habit to consume Chinese herbal tea on daily basis for its numerous health benefits.

Chau Polly