First of all let me start with this, Vietnam is currently the worlds 2nd largest producer of coffee. It is a major player in the industry and the coffee culture is traditional. Most Vietnamese drink coffee on plastic stools at sidewalk cafés or traditional garden café’s which you can find all around Ho Chi Minh City and the whole country. However, Vietnam is not very famous for its quality or specialty coffee scene, lot’s of coffee roasters prefer high profit margins over quality and therefore “fake”, “mix” and “stretch” the roasted coffee to increase their profits.
But things are changing, and they are changing fast. Vietnam recently hosted the very 1st international café show in HCMC. Exporium, the organizers of the famous café show in Seoul, South Korea took things to a whole new level in the Coffee Country, Vietnam. Here are my impressions of this wonderful, eye-opening and unique event in Ho Chi Minh City.
With roughly 250 companies exhibiting their products and innovations and over 10.000 visitors it was a full on success. The exhibition included a World Barista Championship and various coffee related education programs, training's and industry talks. Beside the bigger players like Vovos Coffee Corporation and Buhler Roast Equipment the majority of the exhibitors where smaller scale business in the sector trying to change the industry, step by step. Independent coffee roasters such as Farmers Blend Coffee, Golden Cup Specialty Coffee, the Married Beans Roastery, VPresso and others where the main forces behind the change of Vietnam’s coffee scene.
Independent Farmers from the highlands showcased there extra ordinary harvest and specialty beans, processing coffee the right way and moving away from quantity towards quality seems to be the main force of the event. But not only the green beans and roasters stood their grounds, also independent roast equipment manufacturers and engineers showcased the newest theology and innovations. Terra Smart Roasters from Korea, a small backyard engineer introduced some pretty cool roasters and so did a lot of other technically skilled coffee geeks in Vietnam.
What was most surprising was the lack of Vietnamese Coffee Brands exhibiting. Vietnams No. 1 Coffee Brand Trung Nguyen and Me Trang coffee company was non-existing. Neither was locally owned Phuc Long Coffee Chain and the green bean Traders from Dakman Company (one of the biggest traders in Vietnam). This lack of local, traditional coffee knowledge was in our opinion a clear indicator of the change in the scene. Like the saying “it was always like that, it always will be….” The big players and bullies in the industry seem to miss the train and trends in the newly formed coffee scene in Vietnam. Now is the time for the independent, quality driven individuals to change the coffee landscape in Vietnam – and this will happen quicker than most expect with a much higher success than most people can imagine at this point. We are happy to be part of this coffee revolution and in our opinion, Vietnamese people deserve a change to the better, away from chemically produced “coffee” and mass production. The time seems ripe for Vietnam and it’s vibrant culture.
About the Author: Dietmar Vogelmann is the owner of Farmers Blend Coffee, a Vietnamese coffee company with the mission to increase the visibility and reputation of Vietnamese Coffee and the exiting coffee culture which exists here. Dietmar lives in Vietnam the past 7 years with a great insight in the industry.