I attended my first CafeShow in Vietnam where the domestic companies showcased their coffee beans and foreign companies displayed the various machines to extract that flavor out of the beans. Unlike other countries in Asia, Vietnam has a coffee culture and every city is full of coffee houses. Vietnam is also the world largest exporter of Robusta coffee beans.
I met Dietmar Vogelmann at his booth who was offering trade attendees free cups of coffee in Vietnamese. Intrigue I started conversing with him and learned of the extraordinary journey of this entrepreneur, and the interplay of culture and business opportunities in the global economy.
Dietmar finished his University education in hotel management and began working in five star hotels in major European capitals doing his one year stint in London, Paris, Berlin etc... and decided to go to Nha Trang, Vietnam to explore the world. He planned to be in Vietnam for three years and returned to Germany to continue his professional career.
After one year at Lamien Resort in Mui Ne, a five star resort in Vietnam's most beautiful coastal city, Dietmar found it not to his liking and quit. He decided to hang around Mui Ne. To the world's kite surfers, Mui Ne is known for its balmy weather and gentle shoreline breeze for most of the year.
For any young bachelor, Vietnam demographics favor them. Sixty percent of the population is 35 and under. Dietmar began patronizing this small restaurant in Mui Ne and started talking to this young, charming owner who ran the restaurant. Nothing beats an iced cold coffee in a lazy afternoon in a tropical country. Love was in the air, and after many cups of iced cold coffee, he proposed and got married in Vietnam. One child and seven years later, Dietmar is now the Managing Director of www.farmers-coffee.com promoting Vietnamese coffee worldwide. You can find his coffee on www.amazon.com
The story of boy met girl would have ended here if it wasn't for the fact that Dietmar is German. This is where culture gives his entrepreneurial spirit an advantage. He understands process, quality control and brand building. The world knows Ethiopian coffee, Brazilian coffee, Kenya coffee etc..., but no one knows Vietnamese coffee. Every international coffee house like Starbucks, Lavazza, Nestle and many others buy Vietnamese coffee, but you never see that in their label. Why is that?
Dietmar had the same question. He started talking to coffee farmers in Vietnam and found out that most of them harvest their coffee beans once picking the ripe, unripe and everything else in between. Most farmers are small farmers so they want to maximize their income at selling time. Robusta beans are typically used in instant and caffeinated drinks because it's high in caffein. In addition, there wan't much care and love given to growing the coffee plant.
Many world's well know coffee house combines Arabica with Robusta to create a perfect balance cup of coffee. This is because the typical dark roast Arabica beans where 60% of the people drink will have a burned taste. Mixing aromatic Arabica with full body Robusta creates the right flavor for coffee lover - tasteful and strong.
Comparing Robusta and Arabica is like comparing Grapefruit to Orange. Each has its own unique flavors and purpose. To many who has drank Vietnamese iced coffee, the sweet condense milk combining with the strong caffein and full body flavor of the coffee is savoring and addictive. Dietmar began working with the local farmers to put more care in picking and growing the plants. With quality, he can offer them higher prices than what the multi-national would pay for their beans. Instead of picking all the beans at once, they pick only the ripe ones. Although it is more work for the farmers, they also make more money.
For a country that consumes and exports huge amount of coffee, you might ask why they didn't know this. I believe they know it, but no one offers them more money to have better beans. Dietmar took the time to build relationship and the brand with his marketing know how patiently. He sees opportunities where others didn't.
Dietmar proudly puts the label of Coffee from Vietnam on his coffee bag. Check out his business at www.farmers-coffee.com.