Located in a small alley off Hang Tre Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, 95 percent of the items at the Hidden Gem Coffee are recycled. The coffee shop has four floors and each has a distinctive design.
Nguyen Van Tho, the owner, explained that the name of the café represents its core value. “It comes from the teaching of my grandmother that we should not hastily throw anything away, but consider it carefully, and maybe we can discover its unexpected values.”
Tho’s motivation in opening the café using recycled objects was also rooted in a desire to do his bit to protect the environment.
“My village is under the industrialization and modernization process, so the air, water and the surroundings are very polluted. My hometown in Bac Ninh Province has many craft villages, so too much waste and sewage are dumped in the river
“I want to do something to protect the environment, and this sparked the idea of a recycled café.”
Although the idea was good, finding appropriate materials for decorating the café proved challenging.
“From the moment I got the idea to making it real, it was such a long process. Two friends and I travelled to many places, Bac Ninh, Hoa Binh, Phu Tho, etc., to search for things in many scrap shops and even landfills to get discarded items, bring them back, study and try to incorporate them into a design for the coffee shop,” Tho said.
One part of a broken rice thresher became a sparkling chandelier.
Tho’s desire to protect the environment has seen the café use bamboo and stainless steel straws instead of the plastic, throwaway ones.
Tho said: “If bamboo straws are organic, it will be easier to decompose. The stainless straws are clean, very durable and can be reused many times. Every time customers finish, the café has sterilization tools to ensure hygiene for the customers. If the stainless straws break, they can be reused in other things.”
Old wine bottles attached to an old bicycle wheel makes for another striking ceiling lamp.
These benches are made from discarded bed frames and an old, broken motorbike becomes a table.
These glasses were originally wine bottles. The use of recycled materials has helped the coffee shop save significantly on costs.
This sparkling dragonfly is made from discarded plastic bottles.
“If you can’t clean your surrounding then don’t make it dirty.” This and other environmental messages in the café aim to raise awareness among customers and remind them of their responsibilities to do their bit.
“I was quite surprised to discover that discarded items like broken bulbs and plastic bottles can be used as decorations,” said Hai Ninh, a customer.
Many discarded plastic bottles have been used to decorate the ceiling, creating an eye-catching look.
Many household items such as light bulbs or cooking pans have had a new lease of life as works of art.