Our cumpa contributor Paul has experienced Vietnam’s coffee industry firsthand. From 2016 to 2022, he lived in Saigon, where his development as a coffee connoisseur and roaster began. Vietnamese coffee culture has shaped his understanding of coffee – not just as a beverage, but as a way of life.
And the industry is also changing in Vietnam. Robusta coffee is no longer just cheap coffee for inexpensive espresso blends, a caffeine supplier for the industry, or a niche product for Vietnamese consumers. The third coffee wave has long since arrived on the South China Sea and is transforming Vietnamese coffee culture.
One of the visionaries giving this development a face is Mr. Toi Nguyen. His concept is to produce coffee with love. What sounds trite is ultimately a holistic concept of infinite development, empathetic relationships and sheer boundless energy. He wants nothing less than to rethink the future of coffee. That’s why his company is called Future Coffee Farm.
As a young man, Nguyen Van Toi, as Mr. Toi is known by his full name, cultivated wheat on a small piece of land in his hometown of Bao Loc. The town is located in the mountainous regions of southern Vietnam and was once used by the French colonial rulers as a coffee and tea-growing region. Mr. Toi is Vietnamese. He had to start working at an early age to support his family of ten. When his first child was born, he didn’t even have enough money to provide a home for his family, so they couldn’t live together for the first three years. After each hard day of work on the farm, he sold “Bắp xào” – roasted corn on the street, until he was finally able to buy a small house for himself, his wife and his little daughter. He tells us about that day, “I promise, it was the best feeling ever – when our family could reunite, and I would be able to see them every single day.”
After some time, he started planting coffee, as did his neighbors. In 2012, he joined a sustainable coffee cultivation program and one of the experts came to his farm. At that time, Mr. Toi was still drying the coffee cherries on the ground, without any, prior selection. On the side, he had an extra tarp with sorted coffee cherries that had been pecked by birds. These were all red and ripe. The man offered him a higher price for the “defective” cherries and bought them all up. Mr. Toi began to understand that the ripe cherries were preferred not only by birds but also by green coffee traders.
Time and again, Toi had the opportunity to exchange ideas with the program’s trainers. The advice helped him improve his farming practices. Driven by curiosity and an ever-increasing passion, Mr. Toi managed to acquire in-depth knowledge about coffee, its cultivation, modern processing methods, fermentation techniques, drying methods. An enormous achievement, considering his lack of English skills and scarce resources.
His proudest achievement became Winey Natural Robusta: an anaerobically cherry-fermented coffee full of fruity aromas, with complex acidity and creamy body. This coffee, at the latest, gave Mr. Toi a fan base beyond the country’s borders. But apart from this signature coffee, he also produces other perfectly selected, high-quality Robustas that are second to none.
When we had the privilege to visit his farm, he proudly showed us his latest project: The Organic Farm. Mr. Toi thinks very sustainably and loves nature. “My favorite part of my job is the harvest season, when I can come to the farm every day,” he tells us during the short hike through a strip of rainforest before descending a small path into the valley where his farm is located.
Here he cultivates coffee trees as well as mango, jack fruit, pineapple, star apple and durian. As we sit in the shade of a tree and eat fresh fruit, he also tells us about his plans to bring eco-tourism to the farm. “Back there by the little waterfall, I want to build a homestay where coffee experts and enthusiasts can stay when they visit the farm,” he says, beaming. “I grew up with nothing, but I have a family now that I want to leave something to when I have to leave one day.”
His words resonate with us as we drive back and remain in our memories to this day. Mr. Toi has fixed contracts with his partner farmers in the surrounding area and maintains close contact with them. He pays many times more than what is usual in the region and gets the quality he needs for a perfect product. The relationships are sustainable, friendly and professional.
With cumpa, we have the special honor of being distributors for Mr. Toi’s coffees in Europe. This way we can support his ambitions in the long term. In the coming years, we want to take friendly roasters to the farms and thus promote the exchange in the origin.