• Joel Zorrilla

Specialty Coffee Beans in Vietnam, a rough guide

Updated: May 20

The word "specialty" coffee has quickly become one of the most abused and misleading terms in the general coffee market in Vietnam with everyone using it to describe their beans, despite not meeting the qualifying factors themselves.



Whole Coffee Beans


1) What constitutes truly specialty coffee?


For coffee to be considered of "specialty-grade" it has to reach a few established requirements by the Specialty Coffee Association. One of those is that it has a cupping score of 80 or above, scored out of 100 possible points. That is based on a taste score involving the following criteria:

  • Sweetness

  • Acidity

  • Balance

  • Mouthful

  • Flavor

2) How can a coffee reach the correct level of "specialty grade" beans?


A combination of factors that encompass the coffee beans journey from the moment is is planted in the ground, to the the grinding and packaging stage.



Vietnamese Coffee Farmer

The Farmer

Often overlooked, but it all starts with the most essential part of the coffee bean's journey to your cup, with the farmer. The altitude of the farm and how well maintained the farm is contributes to the overall quality of the coffee cherry. This leads to the the coffee bean being free of defects and at its peak ripeness when harvested


Related: What is Bullet Proof Coffee and where can I buy it in Vietnam?


The Green Coffee Buyer

After this stage the person responsible for sourcing and buying the green coffee beans is involved with the second stage of the journey. This person is tasked with identifying premium quality coffee beans and being able to quantify the cupping score of those beans.



Coffee Beans Saigon


The Roaster

The most scientific element of the coffee process belongs to the roaster, who is a well-trained individual in the scientific aspects of heat transfer, thermodynamics and coffee chemistry. This person has to be able to identify the right roast to the right clients with strict and consistent quality control.


The Barista

Finally, the last hero in our journey to a state of perfect caffeination rests with the barista, who has to be extremely well-trained in flavor profiles, cupping, brewing and more. This individual takes the processed, dry coffee beans and grinds it and finally, using a variety of tools including V60 filters, Aeropress, Espresso machines ETC churns out your final product. That beautiful cup of jo that you have been dreaming about all night.



V60 Coffee Saigon


3) Can I buy specialty Vietnamese coffee in Saigon?


In the 1990s when Vietnam was first opening up to the globalized world of international trade the World Bank stepped in and advised the Vietnamese Government to plant 100% Robusta coffee. The strategy at the time was focused on quantity over quality, so Vietnam would provide coffee to large drinks conglomerates like Nestle. Therefore until recently, the quality of Coffee in Vietnam was characterized as "poor" as it was destined to be turned into low quality instant coffee, abroad. Fortunately however, this is changing for the good. More and more coffee farmers are making the switch to specialty grade Arabica coffee and premium Robusta. This rising trend is, in turn, boosting a renaissance in the coffee industry with more and more young Vietnamese turning to specialty coffee shops for their daily caffeine dose.


4) Where to buy the best premium coffee beans in Ho Chi Minh City?


The rising rate of specialty coffee shops around Vietnam's biggest three metropolises, Saigon, Hanoi and Danang is booming. New cafes offering a wide range of beans, both local and imported are sprouting up around the city, as well as roasting houses where one can purchase their own for home brewing. Our pick of the best places to source specialty coffee beans or sit down in a café for a cup includes:


Warrior Brews

The "bulletproof coffee" of Vietnam, Warrior Brews sources premium single-origin coffee beans from Dalat, in the central highlands. The homebrew kit, true to its name can be ordered with a bottle of MCT Oil for those looking for an energy boost, ketogenic benefits, an increased metabolism and weight loss benefits.

How to buy: Facebook Shop | Website


LaViet

Made famous by their popular all-in-one coffee shop, roastery warehouse in Dalat, la Viet has established itself as an ambassador of Vietnamese premium coffee. They have shops all over Ho Chi Minh city where you can buy their full range of coffee beans, fresh of the roaster. Our favorite beans for homebrewing are the Dalat Series 1-4.

How to buy: Facebook Shop | Website | Location


Building

Owned and operated by coffee savant Will Frith and his wife Kel, Building can be characterized as a "Disneyland for coffee lovers". Their office is a veritable lab of everything coffee for those looking to get started. They offer roasting, cupping and brewing classes for anyone interested. With a full roster of top of the line machines to satisfy the interests of any coffee aficionado. They have everything and can teach you anything regarding the science behind the perfect cup of coffee.

How to buy: Facebook Shop | Website | Location


LaCaph

LaCaph provides a showcase of "coffee for the curious" showcasing the products of some of Vietnam's best most dedicated coffee farmers. They are avid supporters of a sustainable development of the Vietnamese coffee sector with fair trade practices forefront.

How to buy: Facebook Page | Website | Location


Bosgaurus Coffee Roasters

The passion project of Mr. Nguyen Canh Hung who opened Bosgaurus with the goal of changing the global perspective of Vietnam being an exporter of mediocre quality Robusta beans. He setup relationships with select Arabica coffee farms in Dalat and helped them fine tune their process to be able to reach the specialty status of a 80+ cupping score. Bosgaurus is one of the only award-winning roasters representing Vietnam on the global scale, head roaster Tran Han won Barista of the year two times. Apart from exporting to Europe, you can buy their coffee beans at their beautiful coffee shop in Binh Thanh.

How to buy: Facebook Page | Website | Location


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