Coffee Panel & Barista Team Challenge at Bosgaurus
photos by KelNorm
A few days after arriving in Vietnam, some friends and I facilitated an industry panel, a "state of the specialty coffee industry in Vietnam" event. Organized by The Workshop and Bosguarus Coffee, the event took place at Bosgaurus' upper floor, home to their training and cupping lab. We expected that about 30-40 people would attend (if we were lucky), but by the end of the day, the count was closer to 200! It was a lively and long discussion between the panelists and audience lasting over 2 hours.
Our moderators were Dzung Nguyen (The Workshop) and Hung Nguyen (Bosgaurus Coffee). Panelists: Juliet Dang (trainer @ barista school), Han Tran (Bosgaurus Coffee, 2-time VN Barista Champion), Phap Nguyen (Saigon Coffee Roastery), Son Nguyen (producer, founder of Son Pacamara, Dalat), Quang Tran (La Viet). There were definitely more questions than answers. The event was recorded for posterity, and I'll update with a link once it's ready.
A lively 2 ½ hour conversation about the state of VN specialty coffee, current challenges, career paths, and much more, we covered topics ranging from: Traditional vs/and Modern, Commodity vs/and Specialty, coffee prices, barista wages, customer expectations, market potential. The main takeaway for me was - we've covered so much ground over the last 5 years, and we still have a long way to go. Whereas in the past I'd have struggled to find a table full of people who want to discuss coffee and specialty market potential, this event showed me that there were dozens upon dozens ready to take up the conversations.
The panel was preceded by a Barista Team Challenge, a fun event involving randomly-assigned teams of three baristas, tabletop roasters, a couple of mystery coffees, and 15 minute espresso and filter coffee presentations, all within 2.5 hours. Of course the coffees tasted fresh as heck, but we three judges - Juliet Dang, Hung Nguyen, and myself - tasted some great examples of creative, collaborative problem solving on the part of the barista teams (4 teams of 3 each). The room was full of the smells of roasting coffee, alive with the chatter of teams and spectators, and it began to dawn on me just how much this little coffee scene has grown. As I scanned the room looking for familiar faces, it was full of strangers and new friends. The old friends were there, of course, but there were so many people I hadn't met, and the enthusiasm for all things coffee was palpable.
The Workshop's FB page has the best summary of the event's winning team, along with more action photos of the day.