Market Reports

Vietnam’s modern coffee industry

The quality of Vietnam’s coffee is starting to reflect the dramatic economic growth the country has experienced over the past three decades. The Doi Moi economic reforms of 1986 saw the country revitalise its economy, to embrace a gradual shift towards private enterprise. The result has been a steady rise in income and decrease in poverty levels. From an average annual income of $100 per head when Doi Moi was introduced, that figure grew ten fold by 2010. In 1993, around 58 per cent of the country’s population was in poverty. By 2008 it was down to 14.5 per cent. Vietnam has also been rising steadily on companies’ lists of places to do business. In 2009, Anne-Welle Strand, Director of the Centre for Development Studies and Microfinance at the BI Norweigian Business School, published a study calling “Vietnam: A New Economic Dragon in Southeast Asia”. The term seems to have stuck, as the country continues to attract business from abroad. Indeed, these days Vietnam is becoming better known for its tourism potential than its troubled past. Ha Long Bay, a spectacular sight of some 1600 islands and a seascape of limestone pillars, has been recognised as an official World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Other noteworthy spots are the ancient towns of Hue, Hoi An, My Son Holy Land, Phong Nha and Ke Bang National Park. While BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, Indian and China) were long talked about for their economic potential, Vietnam has earned a position in what’s being called the “new BRIC”. CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa) are the current six favoured emerging markets, according to the term first coined by Robert Ward, Global Director of the Global Forecasting team of the Economist Intelligence Unit in late 2009. It’s a convenient sequence of events, then, that the civet cat has inspired the latest coffee release by Trung Nguyen Coffee Company, Vietnam’s largest coffee roasting company that exports to over 60 countries around the world. Civet cats live in Vietnam’s Western Highlands. The wild civets live in the immense green jungle, set on the red land of basaltic volcanic rock formed over the past 160 million years. The highly intelligent cats have a discerning palate, and only select the most ripened coffee cherries to eat. After ingesting the flesh of the fruit, the civet excretes the beans. Trung Nguyen has been cultivating this coffee, and using it for its Càfê Chon – Civet Coffee. Trung Nguyen only releases around 40 – 50 kilograms of Càfê Chon a year, and it is some of the most expensive coffee in the world. Inspired by the civet cat, Trung Nguyen has devoted its time, labour, and research facilities to artificially reproduce the biological fermentation process. The results, they say, is the successful recreation of the natural digestive fermentation that occurs in the body of the wild species of civets. The coffee is sold under the label of Legendee Coffee, and is sold as Trung Nguyen’s finest gourmet brand. “In the current context of globalisation, Vietnam is creating miraculous and powerful paces of growth to become a new Dragon of Asia,” Chairman Dang Le Nguyen Vu tells GCR Magazine. “At Trung Nguyen, we aspire to create a thing, which is the most special in the world, to contribute to the process of integrating and growing the nation. With Trung Nguyen, coffee is not a drink for entertaining. We see it as a source of creativity, to awaken the great power hidden inside each of us.” Trung Nguyen’s marketing campaign for the premium coffee focuses on the drink’s role in the intellectual sphere. The campaign quotes some of the world’s greatest achievers, including Ernest Hemingway and Napoleon Bonaparte . “In moments of creative ecstasy, Trung Nguyen creates a high level of awakening to create historic breakthroughs,” says Vu. “Coffee is not just a drink, but is about overcoming challenges in life. In Vietnam, it has helped us write our own history.” Although Vietnamese coffee is better know for its volume and consistency, Lengendee is part of Trung Nguyen’s campaign to elevate the image of its home-grown coffee in the gourmet arena. “Lengendee is one of the coffee masterpieces of Trung Nguyen offerings to coffee connoisseurs,” says Vu. Those sceptical of Vietnam’s potential to produce high quality coffee should speak with Quang Tran, a Viet Kieu (a Vietnamese citizen living overseas). Tran, who grew up in Australia but visits Dak Lak regularly, is the founder of Vietnam Coffee Company. He started the company after cupping some coffee he stumbled upon in his family’s backyard. “I was visiting some relatives back in Vietnam, and they showed me the coffee trees they had on their property. They would harvest it, and keep the best beans for themselves, then sell off the rest,” he sells. “When I tasted the coffee, I realised what they were keeping was really good coffee.” Tran is working to encourage Australian roasters to take better advantage of their neighbours, and give Vietnam single origins a try. He says that, so far, Australian roasters are quite surprised by the taste characteristics of the specialty lots he’s sourced. Tran’s efforts will join Trung Nguyen’s in promoting the premiumising of Vietnam’s coffee. Lengendee has become a preferred gift for visitors at global conferences, including organisations and events such as the Asia-Europe Meeting, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the World Economic Forum. Prominent visitors to Vietnam, including emperors, kings, heads of states and diplomats throughout the world have received Legendee coffee. “Legendee Coffee is the conjugation of heaven, earth and human passion embodied in the people of the Mythic Highlands,” says Vu. “It offers coffee lovers exquisite exotic perfume to excite their endless source of inspiration.” 

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend