In mid-2018, I moved back to my hometown of Saigon, Vietnam for about a year. Prior to my move, I was living in San Francisco and enjoying the city’s coffee culture. Even though I love visiting different coffee shops, I did not consider myself a coffee drinker nor did I know much about the life cycle of coffee beans.
During my visit, I frequented a specialty coffee shop near my parents’ house and was introduced to different brewing techniques. I ended up taking their barista class, which led me to visit the coffee farm that supplied the coffee beans to the shop. It also allowed me to learn more about their processing and roasting operation.
Since then, I visited different coffee roasters around Saigon, which further developed my interest in coffee, specifically the beans’ aroma and taste from the different regions when brewing pour-overs. I also started reading different books about coffee. Besides mentioning Vietnam as the second-largest coffee exporter, most of the books consider specialty coffee in Vietnam to be negligible. On the other hand, I’ve realized that things are changing in Vietnam as more and more farmers start to grow quality arabica.
This Vietnamese coffee journey led me to meet different people and make more friends who are interested in or working with coffee. The experience was more than just about drinking coffee. It was about connecting with my home country, where I had grown up but did not live long-term as an adult. Now I want to continue that coffee journey in the United States.
I was born in Saigon and moved to California when I was six. I quickly assimilated to the American culture, and my Vietnamese American identity began to bud. After college, I moved out on my own and soon sought something familiar in a new and strange city. This quest ignited my journey into learning more about my roots, gaining a new appreciation for the language, arts, and music of Vietnam.
I wanted to find a place where I could meet others who are interested in talking and learning about all things Vietnam. The image that came to mind were the crowded coffee shops in Vietnam, where people of all ages come to hang out, people-watch, and simply pass time. I realized then that coffee is such a common and unifying aspect in the Vietnamese way of life.
Prior to this discovery, I was not a regular coffee drinker, besides the occasional latte. When I finally set up my home brewing system, I jumped straight into drinking black coffee: espresso, pour-over, and, of course, Vietnamese cà phê. Now, brewing coffee has become my daily ritual. My curiosity also led me to study the connection between coffee and Vietnam. I learned about the opportunities as well as the challenges within the country’s coffee chain, and I unexpectedly realized that I want to play an active role in this field. Through coffee, I’ve truly found a space and time to connect, learn, and share my roots.