Ho Chi Minh City (partial) Update
In the year that I wasn't actively writing here, so much happened that I really can't catalog it all (and I'd probably forget something crucial). Instead of boring you with recounting details, I'll just log things as they come to mind. The crew at Eastgate was great for a while, but problems with staffing and management led to a bleeding of talent that kept me in a cycle of repeating basic-level barista and roaster trainings for months. This wasn't going to be a sustainable effort for the business or myself, so I had to make an exit. They lost most of the key staff I had trained, and there were some major implementation gaps on the part of the management. I suppose I hadn't sufficiently convinced the director to make the plunge to go 100% specialty. He tried to be all things to all people and wouldn't stick to a cohesive menu, combining pictures of latte art with economy rice meals and stuffed as many different things into the place as space would allow (and then some). They're still operating, and I had a decent espresso and cappuccino there just last weekend. It's a cluttered space, with no real cohesive vision, but is surviving and hanging on to some staff now (they've gotten rid of one of the more caustic members of management).
Truc at [a] cafe has really taken a keen interest in both pour over and roasting small batches, 200 grams at a time. He buys small bags of coffees from East Africa and Latin America through a retailer based in Japan. From time to time he will invite local coffee geeks for special tasting events, exposing them to the wild world of Kenyan and Colombian coffees (and others). He is an avid collector of brewing equipment and often has Chemex, Siphon and Cold Drip on offer.
The real excitement comes from my buddies Quang and Duy, formerly of Golden Bell. They've formed a specialty coffee company called La Viet, which translates roughly to "is Vietnamese." La Viet offers roasted and green coffee and are the most legitimate coffee company in the South. I'll have to do a separate post about them, but they're really making a name for themselves while they shake up the local scene. These guys really make me feel good about the future for coffee in Vietnam.