Behind the Beans: Ngoc Anh Dao Ph.D., Founder of Detech Coffee / President of the IWCA Vietnam

Behind The Beans

About “Behind the Beans”

Since the founding of cumpa, we have already met many exciting personalities from the coffee world and made friends. In “Behind the Beans” we want to introduce you to them and take a look behind the scenes together. For our latest issue, we interviewed Ngoc Anh Dao, founder of Detech Coffee and president of IWCA Vietnam. Ngoc Anh is a driven enterpreneur with a clear vision. We have counted her as one of our close partners since 2022 and look forward to a bright future together.

Behind the Beans: Ngoc Anh Dao Ph.D., Founder of Detech Coffee / President of the IWCA Vietnam

What is your relationship with cumpa?

Paul from cumpa connected with me in February 2022 after an introduction by Will Frith from Building Coffee. He was keen to know more about the initiatives at Detech Coffee and the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, Vietnam chapter. Our bond solidified when we co-hosted a booth at the World of Coffee event in Milan in 2022. Through this, our mutual respect grew, recognizing our shared vision for social impact at the origin and sustainability across the coffee supply chain. cumpa’s purchase of our Arabica from Son La in April was a testament to the trust they have in us.

How did you get into the coffee industry?

My father and I opened a café in Hanoi in 2012, with the vision of blending European coffee aesthetics into the rich Vietnamese coffee culture. Initially, we imported international Arabicas and Robusta from Hamburg, Germany. But I soon realized the potential of tapping into Vietnam’s own coffee production. The challenges we faced with local coffee producers, due to our modest order sizes, inspired us to produce our own specialty Arabica. We launched our dry mill in 2018, followed by a wet mill in 2019. By the time of the Covid pandemic, our growth had multiplied threefold.

What do you like about the specialty coffee industry?

Specialty coffee has reshaped the narrative of the coffee world. Before, discussions were limited to origin, profile, or price. Now, they encompass stories, people, and passion. The emphasis shifts to the “who,” “how,” and “why” behind every cup. The focus is now on farmers and coffee producers; how they care for the coffee farms and the methods they use in production often attract attention. Understanding why they choose coffee farming over other agricultural ventures can also be intriguing. This depth enriches the industry, bringing soul to each coffee bean.

What do you want to achieve with coffee?

I envision a world where Vietnamese coffee is not just a blending ingredient but a recognized and celebrated name in the international market. At Detech Coffee, we aim to rework the current farming practices on our farms and within our network to be more sustainable, climate-resilient, and inclusive of women.

What does (specialty) coffee mean to you?

Specialty coffee for me is an ever-evolving journey of learning, networking, and personal growth. Despite operating cafés for a decade and being involved in Arabica production for five years, each day offers new insights. While coffee fuels my curiosity, the business side isn’t without its challenges. There’s a lot at stake, and navigating in the coffee world is a complex endeavor.

What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you with coffee? (your personal coffee highlight)

Tasting the climate-resilient F1-hybrid varieties’ beans from our farm in Son La in 2022 was a revelation. The varieties are Centroamericano (also known as H1) and Starmaya. That cupping session painted a bright future for Arabica Son La in my mind.

Which coffee prejudice would you like to dispel?

The misconception that Vietnam cannot produce exceptional coffee needs addressing. The rarity of specialty Vietnamese coffee in the market isn’t because of quality, but due to roasters’ hesitancy in marketing it. However, the Vietnamese specialty coffee sector is robust and continues to flourish.

Which coffee highlight are you currently looking forward to the most?

We at Detech Coffee are passionately working towards scaling up coffee agroforestry, transforming coffee farming into a carbon-absorbing endeavor. We’re keen on tapping into voluntary carbon markets to market the carbon removal units. We have successfully planted F1-hybrid varieties, thanks to sponsorship by ECOM SMS, alongside macadamia and leucaenas across a 17ha farm in Thuan Chau. While this might seem a modest beginning, our aspirations are big. Our vision is to expand this model over a much broader area. Additionally, we’re gearing up to secure organic certification for select farms, aiming for certifications across all our farms eventually.

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