We choose to import coffee from Vietnam for several reasons.
First, Even though Vietnam is the world’s second largest exporter of coffee behind Brazil, the high quality and unique characteristics of its finest coffees are not as well known to Americans as other coffee regions. Why? Part of the reason is certainly due to the country’s decades long war. And foreign investment is a recent phenomenon, as Vietnam did not possess a stock market until the early 21st Century. But another reason, is what we call the Myth of Arabica.
Most of us have been led to believe that Arabica is the only good coffee bean and that Robusta, the primary coffee crop in Vietnam, is inferior. However, this perception is largely influenced by an unfair comparison of wild grown Robusta, to farm grown Arabica. Robusta, is so robust that it can be grown untended. Which allows farmers the equivalent of a passive income, but quality will be very low. Arabica is much more likely to require fussing over to even be sellable, and so quality tends to be higher.
Until recently, Vietnam’s coffee beans were grown primarily for local consumption and the traditional Vietnam coffee drinker likes dark, very strong, and heavily sweetened coffee that does not require the best practices to produce. Consequently, most farmers did not have incentives to produce better coffee but that has changed dramatically as the Vietnamese government has embraced the development of high quality coffee exports to the world market.
Find a full report of 2018-2019 here https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/circulars/coffee.pdf
Second, there are fascinating differences between coffee cultures in Vietnam and in the United States. The Vietnamese coffee drinking experience is a leisurely social opportunity for friends to sip and chat in a coffee house at any time of day. Coming to America, I found that many Americans make their own coffee, especially in the mornings to fuel themselves for a busy day ahead; the contrast is intriguing.
Last but not least, my generation was the first in Vietnam since the war, to grow up in some semblance of a market economy. It is up to us to take the great cultural products of our home country and introduce them to new shores. It was in this spirit that I resolved to start Karmic Circle Coffee: to share a rich and interesting coffee culture as well as to initiate a social enterprise from an insider’s point of view.