Coffee Break | Reaching Out Tea House, Hội An, Vietnam

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SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC Lured in by the smell of coffee wafting through the air and my weakness for Chinese decoration, I stepped through the door to smiles and, rather oddly, silence. At first I couldn’t really understand what was happening; a Korean couple reading and Western family of 5 sat eating biscuits and sipping coffee without saying a word. I noticed beautiful ceramics and coffee boxes for purchases, and started to speak before rapidly being instructed to shhh (with a smile)… Oh, what’s happening here? This café – Reaching Out – is run by ladies with hearing impairments, and there is no talking permitted. As someone who believes the world is too noisy, this was a Godsend! I cannot help but think we need a similar type of place in London…

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You place your order by completing a form which, fortunately, comes in English. Quite out of character, I hadn’t researched Vietnam very well; most of my experiences were unplanned and, perhaps, that is what made them even more emotional. The power of a smile, of looking into another human being’s eyes with intend and trying to understand who they are without exchanging words is deeply meaningful, and I was caught off guard. It’s interesting what you pick up along the way, right? Reading the literature at the café, I came upon the term “differently abled people” – isn’t that much better, and far more accurate, than ‘disabled’.

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I chose a coffee-tasting set which came complete with condensed milk and a variety of homemade biscuits. I don’t usually sweeter my coffee but this is traditionally how things are done here, and I like to experience new things. I was particularly impressed by the presentation – perfectly polished glassware, glistening gold decoration, Chinese characters galore and a business model that at once accommodates tourists supports local people and remains true to Vietnam. Highly-impressive.

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I spent over an hour here, taking photographs, sipping coffee and just closing my eyes and enjoying the gentle murmur of life outside and that sweet, smell of really good coffee. Located within the UNESCO heritage town and started by a Vietnamese couple, the Reaching Out company provides employment for those living with disabilities, offering them a chance to enhance their skills to provide an income to live independently. The company receives no outside funding and is completely reliant on people like us. Great coffee, calm surroundings and an even better cause. If you’re visiting Hoi An, I highly recommend a visit.

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P.S. I am desperately trying to book another trip to Vietnam. Alas, it will have to wait until 2017.

Reaching Out
131 Trần Phú,
Sơn Phong,
tp. Hội An,
Quảng Nam,
Vietnam

2 Comments

  1. Lawrence McCormick
    21 March 2016 / 13:29

    Vietnam is by nature a chaotic place place in public and very calm in private; for a visitor, Reaching Out is perfect for getting out of the heat of the day and switching off as you say with your eyes closed or just watching the colours of a typical Vietnam street scene passing. Well written, I love this place! When you go back, may I suggest going for breakfast or lunch at Seedlings in Hoi An? It’s just across the main bridge that links the Ancient City to the slightly more modern side. This business set up as an introduction to a career in catering and hospitality for disadvantaged youngsters (some have been orphaned and others were Street kids living rough) they receive training in finance, catering and customer service and the food quality, service and experience is just lovely (they will happily teach you how to order food and drinks in Vietnamese, as well as basic pleasantries such as how to get the waiting staff’s attention, asking for the bill etc.). I fully intend to visit both on my next visit!

  2. Elaine Head
    21 March 2016 / 23:50

    Thank you for such a beautiful blog post. The pictures are very evocative and the script does justice to Reaching Out, a social enterprise. When the Tea House was created, around our need to provide meaningful employment for the hearing impaired, we worked very hard on the service system and the decor to ensure a tranquil experience for our customers. In the silence, our hearing customers meet our servers in their silent world and experience the joy of communicating through gestures, facial expressions, body language and signing.

    Our greatest delight is that, while we are preserving the traditional Vietnamese “welcoming” tea service and offering locally grown products we know that our customers have loved the experience of silence.

    I am a volunteer with Reaching Out.

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