Vietnam – The Robusta Coffee Capital of the World!

I was recently invited to come to Da Nang, Vietnam to give a presentation about coffee to the Toastmasters International organization there.

From their website:  Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Our organization has more than 357,000 memberships. Members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 16,600 clubs in 143 countries that make up our global network of meeting locations.

This was my first trip to Vietnam, and I quickly discovered and experienced how much of a coffee culture is present in this country. I was amazed at how many cafes there are, seemingly every other storefront is a cafe or serves Vietnamese coffee.  Vietnam is the world’s leading producer of robusta coffee providing 70% of the world’s supply! They have a very specific way in which they serve Vietnamese-style coffee and every cafe serves it in the same style. The focus is on taste and they rely on sweetening every coffee with Carnation condensed milk, the syrupy super sweet kind. The reason it works so well and why people like it so much is because the sweetened condensed milk balances out the overly bitter coffee. There is no awareness about fresh roasting and there is not even the awareness that they are drinking robusta coffee (which has twice the caffeine content!!!), as opposed to Arabica coffee. It’s simply referred to as coffee, and the choices are: with milk, black, iced, or hot. If you wanted to have it without condensed milk you would have to special order that.

There were a lot of interested people who heard my presentation but did not quite understand exactly the method of home roasting coffee or why I was touting it as a necessity if you want to have great coffee. So, the very next day it was arranged for me to do a live roasting demonstration at a new, trendy, well equipped cafe in town. “Factory 43” was the location of choice. A very impressive (architecturally) and well equipped cafe that features state-of-the-art espresso equipment as well as 100% Arabica coffee (it turned out to be the ONLY cafe that offered 100% Arabica coffee from the dozen or so popular cafes that I had the opportunity to visit and sample their coffee).

I love doing live roasting demonstrations as well as taste tests for the participants. We roasted 100% Ethiopian Sidamo and compared it to the same origin roasted one week earlier. Since they had a two group espresso machine and two separate grinders it was easy to conduct a proper taste test side-by-side. To my expectation, everyone could tell the difference between the just roasted coffee and the one week old roasted coffee. After the taste test, I could see the light bulbs going off in people’s brains as they connected what I was saying in my presentation and what they were experiencing by the taste test.

Until you have tasted and experienced first-hand what I promote and preach about, it’s all just an idea and theory. This is why it will take awhile for the masses to really understand the difference and the power in roasting their own coffee. The first step in this whole process is asking the right questions: Why does it matter? Who benefits from the way coffee is made and sold in its current form? And finally, is there a better way that not only produces a better quality cup of coffee, but that is also more beneficial for the consumer, the environment, the farmers, and people’s finances?

I have been invited back to Vietnam and many attendees were interested in getting a Power Roaster once they become available. I look forward to returning as I see this as an important place from which to continue my “Fresh Roasting Revolution!”.

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