Will Frith

I Went to Look for Specialty Coffee in Vietnam

Specialty coffee in Vietnam from the perspective of an American of Vietnamese descent who works in the specialty coffee industry in the United States, and the growing specialty movement in Vietnam’s coffee industry

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. 

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 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.


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.