Will Frith
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» As it Cools

A blog about the emerging specialty coffee industry in Vietnam, as well as the growing third-wave coffee culture in Saigon

Magical Time in Dalat

We spent 4 days in Lam Dong Province last week getting to know friends of our good buddy Le Than Son (Saigonese rocker and film maker). There we met Dang, a young, well-connected wedding reception planner/caterer in the region, whose future father-in-law (who we'll call Chu, or Uncle) has 200 hectares of mostly Robusta and some Catimor (and his family owns 1000 hectares cumulatively!). There aren't many privately-held estates that big in Lam Dong, and I'm sure he's supplying the major players (Thai Hoa, Trung Nguyen and/or Volcafe). The view from Chu's farmhouse porch. (foreground: tarps on organic fertilizer)

Here's Chu with a 2 year-old Catimor tree.

Coffee trees beyond the horizon...

More likely, though, they're probably selling to processor/middlemen, which is (except in very few cases) the usual practice in Vietnam. Strip-picked cherry going to processors for a tiny fraction of the price is all too common. The growers, again and again, are getting the shortest end of the shortest stick. I wonder how I can even begin to make a dent in this very powerful hierarchy.

Dang has been like a good luck charm for us in Lam Dong province, helping to find a dreamy living situation, connecting us instantly with his father-in-law, Chu, finding us a motorbike, dealing with the authorities, and his increasingly-important friendship.

"Anything you need, just call me," seems to be his favorite thing to say to us. This gives me much motivation to hold up my end of the relationship.