Myanmar has developed a thriving café culture in recent years, and many good coffee shops have sprouted around town.
And with the competition heating up, a lot of coffee shops are coming up with themes to differentiate themselves.
Among the many trendy coffee shops that have opened up recently, I found a hidden gem, Café Salween, which was named Café of the Year as part of myanmore.com’s Dining and Nightlife awards.
The shop is a modern café with a wide choice of traditional desserts. The atmosphere is relaxed. Its cool, modern vibe makes it a lovely spot to sit in.
Seated under the Plumeria tree in the center of the café, surrounded by flowers, it’s easy to drift off and think you’re relaxing in your own garden.
When I was there, it was around 11am and a few foreign guests were seated here and there. I opted for a table for two located near the entrance.
The staff is attentive; a waiter appeared beside me in no time with a paper menu, and was happy to explain any items I had questions about. But in the end, I stuck with my all-time fave: a cappuccino.
Café Salween stocks a range of international coffees, but for aficionados they offer a “special choice” — a hand-brewed single-origin coffee from Ethiopia. The coffee is brewed using a variety of methods including Syphon, Chemax, Pour Over, Drip Pot and so on.
A selection of hot teas, smoothies, yogurts and juices are also available. Coffee ranges in price from 2,500 kyats to 5,000 kyats.
One fun feature is that all coffee sizes are named after birds: a small is a robin, a medium is a flamingo, and a large is, of course, an ostrich.
Service is prompt — you won’t need to wait for more than five minutes.
As for the cappuccino, a drink many cafes serve with a creamy taste, the Salween’s version leans toward the bitter — which I absolutely loved.
In a telltale sign of a truly quality cafe, the Salween’s coffees have a bitterness that lingers on your tongue. So I believe the Salween fully deserves the Café of the Year award.
This is a modern coffee shop, but don’t come here expecting the usual cake, bread or toast. They only serve traditional Myanmar desserts such as poppy seed cake (Bane Mont), semolina (Shwe Kyi Hsa Noon Ma Kin), sweet potato cake (Ka Soon U Hsa Noon Ma Kin), banana cake (Ngat Pyaw Thee Hsa Noon Ma Kin), pumpkin cake (Pha Yone Thee Hsa Noon Ma Kin), potato cake (Arr Loo Hsa Noon Ma Kin), lotus seeds soup (Mont Kyar Si) and sago soup (Thar Gu Pyote).
They also have tea leaf salad (La Phat Thoke), ginger salad (Gyinn Thoke), Myanmar crepe (Yay Mont and Lan Tha Yal Mont), steamed glutinous rice (Kauk Nyinn Poun) and other traditional foods.
Food dishes start at 2,000 kyats, which is a bit pricey for a Myanmar cake, but remember this: You’re sitting in a nice, modern coffee shop. So it’s worth a little extra.
The Wi-Fi is reliable and there is a small selection of local and English-language books for those who like to while away the time sipping coffee and reading.
On my first visit, I immediately fell in love with this little garden. It’s a great place to chill on your own with your phone or laptop, and perfect for a business meeting or just squeezing in a little chitchat with your mates.
I recommend avoiding the lunchtime rush; a lot of company employees working nearby arrive with their lunch boxes and it gets noisy.
This little shop is located in the Asia Business Centre, on Mahabandula Road between 47th and 48th streets. (The road beside YKKO 47 Street).