Specialty Coffee in Vietnam
In January 2013 I moved back to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) from Olympia, Washington. I had lived in Saigon for a few years after I finished college in 2004, but what I found when I returned was a completely different country. Also, I was on a mission to find high quality arabica in the mountains of Dalat.
I worked the bar, roasted coffee, trained baristas, trained roasters, judged competitions, and helped people open cafes. I supported anyone I could find who was dedicated to raising the bar for coffee in the country. I quickly became part of a small and young community of producers, processors, green coffee buyers, roasters, nerds, and cafe entrepreneurs who are trying to make Vietnamese coffee something legit and worthy of attention.
Why Vietnam? Well, my mom is Vietnamese and that's what brought me there in the first place, but what keeps me engaged in the country is its potential for producing great coffee - and a fascinating cafe culture that is growing quickly.
In August 2015 I moved to Portland, Oregon to take a dream job with Modbar. I remain a champion of Vietnamese coffee, and will totally put you in touch with people there if you want a local tour of a cafe, roastery or farm. I also love putting roasters in touch with producers, and I look forward to my next trip back to Vietnam in July and August of 2018.
BBC: “The Coffee Trail With Simon Reeve.” February 2014.
BBC: "How Vietnam Became a Coffee Giant." January 2014.
Sprudge.com: “’A Template For Life:’ Will Frith and Specialty Coffee in Vietnam.” September 9, 2013.
Sprudge.com: "The New Black: A Modular Multiroaster Concept in Singapore." December 2, 2014.
Thanh Nien Newspaper: "Vietnam's Coffee Hero." September 2013
The Gioi Gia Dinh Magazine: “Chàng Tây du mục mê cà-phê Việt,” July 23, 2013
Thành Phố Hôm Nay: “Nghệ thuật pha Café,” June 16, 2013.
Fresh Cup Magazine: "When Yield is No Longer Enough." June 2013 Coffee Almanac.
Fresh Cup: "Will Frith, Vietnamese Coffee Whisperer." April 2018
VN Express International: "In Search of Arabica in Vietnam's War-Scarred Soil." November 2017.
CNN: "Egg Coffee in Hanoi." June 2017.
Loa.fm: "From Field to Cup: Vietnam Rides Coffee's Third Wave." September 2016.
Southeast Asia Globe: "Vietnam's Arabica Push." January 2016.
SCA News: "Emergence of a Coffee Origin: Dalat, Vietnam." August 2015.
Thanh Nien Newspaper: "Vietnam's Small (But Growing) Specialty Coffee Movement." January 2015.
Roast Magazine: "Firestarters," Interview Column. March/April 2014
People I Work With in Vietnam
Tran Nhat Quang is the first Vietnamese coffee nerd I met, back in 2013 at the Coffee Outlook Conference. He grows, sources, and sells quality green coffee in Dalat.
A new cafe doing things differently in Saigon. Located at 27 Ngo Duc Ke in District 1, they've got all the bells and whistles, and partner Nguyen Tuan Dung is obsessed with quality.
Nguyen Truc is an artist, photographer, and epicure who roasts his own coffee at 15 Huynh Khuong Ninh in District 1.
Josh Guikema and his wife Rolan CoLieng are growing incredibly high quality varietals in Rolan's community of Vietnamese minorities. They have their own roasted coffee brand too.
Michael Wood and Cana Little are based in Vietnam and travel around Asia building community, sharing knowledge, and sourcing coffee from some of the world's most vulnerable farmers. They put the welfare of the farming communities at the center of their sustainable vision.
Home to two-time national barista champion Han Tran, this place would be at home in any highly-developed specialty coffee city. The founder, Hung Nguyen, has built one of the most impressive coffee brands in Vietnam with quality to match. Alongside their Vietnamese offerings, they import a variety of coffees as well. Whether engaging with staff to learn about coffee or hiding out on a laptop to knock out a few hours' work, it's easy to spend half a day here comfortably.