Specialty Coffee in Vietnam
In January 2013 I returned to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam after six years' absence, and what I found when I returned was a completely different country. I had come back on a mission to find high quality arabica in the mountains of Dalat, but I ended up finding so much more.
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.
Well, my mom is Vietnamese and that's what brought me there in the first place, but what keeps me engaged in the country are the people that I meet and work with, and 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 remained a champion of Vietnamese coffee, and made periodic trips to check in and contribute to the community.
In December 2018 I returned to Saigon with my partner Kel, this time to start our own business.
Vice Munchies: “Sahra Nguyen Wants to Change the Trajectory of Vietnamese Coffee.” April 2019
Daily Coffee News (Roast Magazine): “Will Frith on Big Moves and Specialty Coffee in Saigon.” March 2019
Sprudge: "Improving Vietnam's Coffee, One Variety at a Time." June 2018
Fresh Cup: "Will Frith, Vietnamese Coffee Whisperer." April 2018
Vietnam News: "Vietnamese Coffee Inspires American Coffee 'Geek'". 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
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.
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, where he also runs a cafe / roastery / community hub
A cafe doing things differently in Saigon, pioneering the city’s burgeoning specialty coffee movement. 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.
Josh Guikema and his wife Rolan CoLieng are growing incredibly high quality varietals in the K’Ho Cil (ethnic minority) community. They have their own roasted coffee brand too.
Home to two-time national barista champion Han Tran and formerly the home of 2018 champion Anh Vu, 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.
Nguyen Truc is an artist, photographer, and epicure who roasts his own coffee at 15 Huynh Khuong Ninh in District 1.