Soon the bitterly delicious taste of Vietnamese robusta coffee beans from Nguyen Coffee Supply will be in kitchens across the country after the company raised $2.6 million in recent seed round funding. With initial plans to expand distribution and create new products, the company also wants to transform the coffee industry through sustainability, diversity and cultural integrity.
"We're excited to further our mission to expand the awareness and enjoyment of robusta coffee," says Sahra Nguyen, founder of Nguyen Coffee Supply. "As part of that mission, we're committed to elevating the undervalued but significant coffee industry in Vietnam--the world's largest producer of robusta. As a first-generation Vietnamese American, building a brand rooted in cultural diversity & inclusion is a major part of my business plan."
The group of investors include Wen Zhou, CEO and founder of 3.1 Phillip Lim; Charles Huang, co-founder of Guitar Hero; and Lisa Lee, the vice president of culture and belonging at DoorDash, among others. With diversity in mind, the group of funders consists of 40 percent women, 69 percent Asian Americans, and 77 percent people of color.
“Having been a founder myself, I understand the kind of passion and resilience needed to grow a brand," says investor Carol Lim, co-founder and co-creative director of fashion label Opening Ceremony. "Within the first five minutes of listening to Sahra, I knew that she has what it takes to not only build a business, but also a community to shape the future of coffee together."
Sahra Nguyen, CEO and Founder of Nguyen Coffee Supply
Ngyuen is a first-generation Vietnamese American with a love for trying new coffee. She noticed Vietnamese coffee beans were consistently labeled as "inferior" by coffee shops in the United States, though Vietnam is the second largest coffee supplier in the world. This challenged her to “rewrite the narrative of coffee from Vietnam,” according to the company’s website.
With her extended family living in Vietnam, Nguyen’s aunt introduced her to a friend who owned two coffee farms in Da Lat. In 2016, the pair visited the farm and established a direct trade relationship with the farmer, to bring his green robusta coffee beans to the United States. Nguyen then learned to roast the beans in Brooklyn, New York and developed flavor profiles for each distinct coffee brew.
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Robusta beans are known for their bitter taste, however Vietnamese coffee boasts low-acidity, less natural sugar and a higher caffeine content than arabica beans, along with having a strong and smooth flavor, according to The Healthy.
For authentically Vietnamese coffee, brew the beans using a phin filter and gravity press. Nguyen Coffee Supply features a few different roasts available for order on its website. Their bestseller is called ‘Loyalty’ and includes half arabica and half robusta beans and boasts notes of fruit and a high caffeine content. Each batch is roasted fresh weekly in the company’s Brooklyn facilities.
Nguyen Coffee Supply is sold on the brand’s website and can be found in restaurants and cafés in New York City, Washington D.C., Seattle, Kansas City and more.
Photography by: Courtesy of Erics Kun and Maria Be for Nguyen Coffee Supply.