5 to Try: Vietnamese Coffees - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

5 to Try: Vietnamese Coffees

In our July/August 2021 issue, Dan Q. Dao explores the proliferation of Vietnamese cafés across the country, from Phin and Hello Em in Seattle to the beloved Kansas City coffee truck Cafe Cà Phê. Fueled in large part by the passion of first-generation Vietnamese Americans, these cafés are also able to put the spotlight on Vietnamese coffee beans. Long relegated to bulk commodity coffees, Vietnamese beans are making their way into the mainstream thanks to roasters like Brooklyn’s Nguyen Coffee Supply, Philadelpia’s Càphê Roasters and Phin Coffee Club in Austin, who are showcasing the coffee’s quality and diversity.

Bao Nguyen, owner of Phin in Seattle, currently sources beans from Austin’s Phin Coffee Club. “A departure from the light and medium roast of modern specialty Vietnamese coffees, we appreciate Phin Coffee Club’s old school, super dark, and smoky flavors that remind me of folks roasting coffee in steel drums in Vietnam,” says Nguyen. But given the relatively recent appearance of these new roasters on the market, Nguyen offers us a tour through the beans that represent the evolution of Vietnamese coffee stateside. “For most folks in the U.S., the term ‘Vietnamese coffee’ has largely meant one thing: iced coffee (likely Cafe du Monde) with condensed milk,” says Nguyen. “It doesn’t reflect the range of flavors and styles of coffee that Vietnamese coffee has to offer. So it’s important to keep an open mind and try different things!”

Cafe du Monde “When Vietnamese immigrants first arrived in the U.S., these yellow cans of dark roast coffee and chicory, produced in New Orleans, were the closest thing they could find to coffee back home,” explains Nguyen. “For decades since, this coffee was the default for Vietnamese coffee in the U.S. and many still use it today. There were no Vietnamese coffees because there was a trade embargo between the U.S. and Vietnam after the war.”

Trung Nguyên Creative #2 “Trung Nguyên is the largest coffee producer in Vietnam. They were also the first to be exported overseas when trade between the U.S. and Vietnam resumed in 1994,” says Nguyen. “Nowadays, you can find this brand at most Vietnamese supermarkets alongside Cafe du Monde.”

Lang Thang Coffee Co. Brothers Bao and Duy Nguyen opened Cincinnati restaurant Phở Lang Thang in 2010, serving coffee from their father’s coffee roaster in Saigon before beginning to also sell the beans as a separate business. It represented the next step for Vietnamese coffee among “smaller coffee companies based in Vietnam but also exporting to the U.S.,” says Nguyen, noting that the company still offers a more classic style of Vietnamese coffee, with dark roasts and buttery flavors. 

Nguyen Coffee Supply Launched in 2018 by Sahra Nguyen, Brooklyn-based Nguyen Coffee Supply marks the point when “Vietnamese coffee officially enters the specialty market,” says Bao Nguyen, with the company roasting domestically and following a more modern approach using single origin beans.

Phin Coffee Club For Nguyen, Austin-based Phin Coffee Club represents “the newest iteration” of Vietnamese coffee stateside, roasting locally “yet offering classic, old-school Vietnamese coffee flavors, and eschewing ‘rules’ established by a Western coffee culture,” says Nguyen.

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