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Dune café – An exploration through Vietnamese coffee

One of the most memorable image to visitors of any cities in Vietnam might be of the corner street cafés or ‘cà phê cóc’, serving what seems to be the darkest essence of coffee, to bemused people on wooden stools with the hue of lingering cigarette smoke.  Time seems to stand still amidst the nonstop daily mundane.

Connoisseurs know of the Adam and Eve of coffees.  Robusta and Arabica.  In regions such as Northern America or Europe where people have been consuming Arabica for centuries, the coffee is light, with layers of flavors and aromas.  Vietnamese on the other hand consider this as they would tea, and drinking Arabica makes us yearn for the familiar traditional Vietnamese coffee.  Unwavering, dark, harshly bitter and yet with a lingering sweetness

For many historical and cultural reasons, Vietnamese has been drinking Robusta for generations – a type of coffee bean that has a much higher acidity.  How to overcome the sourness to harvest and explore the rest of the flavor profile?  There is but one way: a strong roast; and/or blended with other ingredients such as corn, cacao, caramel, soy beans… to create thickness, reducing sourness, resulting in the liquid becoming bitter.  Over time, what was once a trend is now habit. The definition of a good cup of Joe for Vietnamese is a completely different concept than the traditional standards created by Europeans.  Drinking ‘cà phê đen’ becomes a cultural experience. Which comes with a warning – Once getting through the harshness of the first few drops, it promises to be addictive. 

In turn, when forming the coffee selection for Dune café, we get ourselves go into a journey throughout the country’s coffee regions. Which Robusta is better – that of Di Linh or Kon Tum? Which Arabica – that of Nghe An or Son La?  What are the ideal roasting methods for various types of beans? What differences all these factors bring out in the products? And finally, how to bring it to our customers in a whole experience? 

We felt like treasure raiders – getting lost in one of the biggest coffee vaults of the world - behind Southern Central America and Eastern Africa. 
Destined by nature, Vietnam is situated right inside the ‘World coffee belt’ – a region between latitude 23 degrees North and 23 degrees South with approximately 1000 miles (1609.34km) band around the equator. The country is divided into 3 distinguished regions. The birthplace of Vietnamese coffee is the Central part of Vietnam, Thanh Nghệ Tĩnh (mostly Nghệ An) – not the Western highlands as many assume – because the first Arabica tree was planted there by the French at Phủ Quỳ in 1875.  After the coffee rust plague, this was also the first region succeeded in creating an Arabica species of Catimor branch – a cross between Timo hybrid and Caturra, with the traditional characters of Arabica and the relentless strength of Robusta.  The second region is Điện Biên & Sơn La in the North West with vast valleys hidden behind the Hoàng Liên Sơn at 500-1000m above sea level – ideal for Arabica. Lastly and mostly known worldwide, it’s the highlands of Tây Nguyên, from Hải Vân pass going all the way down South – a paradise for half a million hectares of Robusta, with recognizable names such as Lâm Đồng and Kon Tum.

Vietnam also grows a lesser known species called Excelsa or ‘cà phê mít’ (jackfruit coffee), which was nearly extincted, due to the height of the tree and accessiability of the bean.  Some small areas in Quảng Trị succeeded in making them shorter while bearing more fruits.
Our journey brought us to coffee plantations in Lâm Đồng and Nghệ An, where we contribute in creating more direct profits to local communities, by working directly with the farmers. We have hand-picked a selection of Vietnamese coffees for Dune café with a range of products from Robusta from Di Linh, Arabica from Bảo Lộc, to best of blends from Gia Lai and many more. The crème de la crème of Vietnamese distinguished coffee regions served using traditional methods as well as evolving trendy new styles. 

Furthermore, we partner with young coffee roasting experts who share our passion for Vietnamese coffee in selecting beans, investing time in researching, testing with different methods of blending, roasting, processing, to result in a unique blend, a trademark of Wyndham Grand KN Paradise Cam Ranh – a product that we are proudly called 100% Vietnamese.  The beans still warm from the farmers’ hands are processed with passion, served with respect observing traditional values in every drop. 

It’s our promise for not only a great beverage but a complete cultural experience. 

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