Will Frith
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» As it cools

Specialty coffee in Vietnam: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) coffee shops, roasters, and baristas, and Dalat green coffee farmers, processors, and evangelists.

La Viet Saigon Soft Opening

photos by KelNorm
 La Viet's Ngoc Nguyen and Quang Tran, Charlie Luong (Artisansmith) chat with Vincent Mourou (Marou Chocolate).

La Viet's Ngoc Nguyen and Quang Tran, Charlie Luong (Artisansmith) chat with Vincent Mourou (Marou Chocolate).

La Viet's Saigon Flagship is beautiful, approachable, with proud attention to detail. The menu explains the story, mission, and offerings for the space, which will serve as their Saigon HQ for both retailing and customer support.

I had a traditional phin drip iced coffee (plain, no milk or sugar) and it was delicious at a very approachable price (<$2 USD). Quang’s goal is to meet his potential customer where they are, lifting them up into the La Viet world of coffee with patience and understanding. Rather than overwhelm them with the hottest gadgets, coffee cultivars and processing techniques, they hope to lure coffee fans in with the best versions of familiar coffee beverages possible.

 

La Viet's staff execute the espresso and pour over bar with care and pride as well, hosting a broad menu of coffee styles while leading with a quality focus. A row of Kalita Wave drippers sit alongside a row of Vietnamese traditional phín drippers, creating a context and visual bridge between the familiar and the new. Leading the barista and customer support team is national barista championship finalist (2nd place in 2018, and perennial finalist) Linh Thuy, who is also affiliated with The Workshop Specialty Coffee. 

I dropped by early morning, and the place was already buzzing with activity and friendly faces. We quickly found a place at the front table among some of our best Saigon friends. With my iced phin drip and a warm croissant, it was a perfectly peaceful, cozy start to what would be a very full, very engaged day.

 A perfect spot to spend a cool early morning before the day heats up.

A perfect spot to spend a cool early morning before the day heats up.

 Cozy second floor zones with comfy seats.

Cozy second floor zones with comfy seats.

 SQUAD! Me, Son (Son Pacamara), Truc ([a] Coffeehouse), Quang (La Viet).

SQUAD! Me, Son (Son Pacamara), Truc ([a] Coffeehouse), Quang (La Viet).

The three fellas in the above picture represent the beginning of my work in Vietnam - grower/producer Son Nguyen; [a] Coffeehouse founder, Truc Nguyen; La Viet founder, Quang Tran.

Son, although not the first grower I met there, has shown a passion for learning that still burns brightly, even brighter 5 years later! I'll post separately about his new coffee club in Dalat...

Truc's coffeehouse and roasting company are growing at a good pace as well. Though he wasn't the first cafe owner I met in Saigon, he was the first to understand and join (with his business) the specialty coffee mission and maintain presence. He was so enamored with everything - from brewing methods to roasting to coffee varieties - and has managed to remain humble, community and quality-focused. One of the first Vietnam specialty coffee panels was held in [a] Coffeehouse, where he continues to put on events every year - from producer to barista to industry level, there's always something interesting happening.

I've written enough in other posts about Quang, my first coffee friend in Vietnam, my brother, my biggest ally since day one. Rather than gush for another 500 words, I'll just say that I'm really thankful for this guy.