A new coffee company called Nam Coffee is creating a direct connection between the world’s second-largest producer of coffee, Vietnam, and the second-largest consumer market in the United States, Los Angeles.
Nam Coffee Founder Vince Nguyen has roots that run deep in both places.
“I was born in a city of coffee in Vietnam,” Nguyen recently told DCN, noting that he got his first professional taste of coffee in his youth while helping his mother run a coffee cart in the central District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). “I loved coffee when I was little.”
Upon moving to California eight years ago, Nguyen found the Vietnamese coffee options to be lackluster.
“When I went to a cafe or restaurant, I was happy to see them selling Vietnamese coffee,” Nguyen said. “But the coffee I tried, it wasn’t Vietnamese coffee. So I asked my sister to send me coffee from Vietnam.”
Now acting as an importer while contracting the services of a Los Angeles roasting company, Nguyen is supplying Vietnamese coffees under his own liking under the Nam Coffee name.
The brand has launched with three core blends of coffees sourced through direct connections facilitated by his sister with producers in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
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Recalling Nguyen’s coffee upbringing, the District One blend is a 50/50 mix of arabica and robusta beans; the Orange County blend combines arabica and robusta at a 70/30 ratio; and the Da Lat is a 100% robusta blend.
In addition to the three blends, Nam Coffee’s website sells Nam-branded phin brewers for traditional Vietnamese-style coffee brewing.
The branding of Nam Coffee merges a sunny and laid back Southern California aesthetic with Vietnamese coffee cultural references. The packaging consists of West Coast iconography like palm trees and freeway signs, while odes to Vietnam include a motorcycle and the face of the person who was part of the first chapter of Nguyen’s coffee story: his mother.
Nguyen said he visits the partnering roastery twice a week while also handling all the packaging and creative elements of the small business.
“Every order, I do myself,” Nguyen said. “I go to the roastery, go to USPS, go everywhere. I’ve learned how to manage time, be creative, develop the brand.”
Nam Coffee joins a growing number of young coffee companies founded by first- and second-generation immigrants from Vietnam that are helping to popularize traditional Vietnamese coffee brewing methods and recipes while promoting robusta consumption. Vietnam remains the world’s largest robusta-producing country.
Nguyen said he hopes to soon be able to import beans from other parts of Vietnam while simultaneously supporting the work of more producers through direct-trade relationships. Yet the overarching goal remains extending the reach of Vietnamese coffees to more consumers.
“It’s the right time for myself and for anyone else to do anything with Vietnamese coffee,” he said. “We’re stronger together. We want to uplift Vietnamese coffee culture in the United States and around the globe.”
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Libby Allnatt is a writer with a passion for trying new coffee shops. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.