STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 1

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50 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 1, 2016 (February/March) Patio seating at Caffe Bene, a Korean chain operating in Saigon Savory stuffed pastry at Chou, Saigon Second floor hidaway at the Cong Cafe, Saigon Trung Nguyen Trung Nguyen (TN) began in 1996 as a coffee processor in Buon Mi Thout, the coffee capitol of Vietnam. Soon after founder Dong Le Nguyen Vu decided to move the company up the value chain, investing in roasting, packaging, and branding, as well as a chain of cafes. TN is now a group of 6 companies operating 1,000 cafes in Vietnam with another 40 in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, China, and Japan. It Vietnam's biggest coffee brand with 14% market share, after Nestlé Vietnam (35% share), and is known as "the Starbucks of Vietnam." This title became a serious misnomer when, in early February 2013, Starbucks opened its Vietnam flagship store in Ho Chi Minh City. Vu saw this as a challenge to his market dominance in Vietnam, so made plans to expand his chain interna- Vietnam's Café Society Vietnam boasts a fascinating array of coffee cafes: global brands, local chains, "indies" and boutiques, each attracting a unique segment of an avid coffee drinking market. There are also thousands of alleyway joints offering traditional Vietnamese robusta coffee at rock-bottom prices. tionally, including the US. He once famously referred to Starbucks' iconic blended iced drinks as "… basi- cally coffee-flavored water with sugar!" Trung Nguyen features Vietnam robusta, the tra- ditional favorite of Vietnamese coffee lovers. Front and center is café da, intense, sweetened hot coffee, and café sua da, sweetened iced coffee, brewed at table with a phin, a small metal drip brewer. Focus- ing not on the man-on-the-street, but on the up-scale, aspirational middle class coffee drinker, Vu modern- ized his conservative-looking stores and charges on the high side for his bespoke products. TN offers a variety of coffees, including imported beans and a patented "pre-digested" coffee bean, said to mimic "weasel" or civet coffee, but costing much less. The chain also offers what it calls "Sang Tao," creative blends of robusta and Arabica beans and blends made with peaberry. With four roasting plants in the central highlands of Vietnam, the company currently produces 120,000 Trung Nguyen Coffee, Vietnam's largest domestic coffee company.

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