La Viet, Dalat – the changing of Vietnamese Arabica coffee’s perception

As I was writing before, Da Lat is the main region where Arabica beans are cultivated in Vietnam and the place where a few processors are working to change the perception over the quality of the Vietnamese coffee, especially the Arabica beans. We’ve met La Viet, another key major player in the improvement of the Vietnamese coffee quality. In order to achieve their goal, there is a common effort done by three persons with a good vision: Tran Nhat Quang, owner of La Viet; Nguyen Canh Hung, owner of Bosgaurus and Nguyen Dung from The Workshop. I previously wrote about Bosgaurus (which is my favourite coffee shop so far) and The Workshop in the article about Ho Chi Minh City’s coffee shops.

Mr. Tran Nhat Quang, La Viet (left); Mr. Nguyen Canh Hung, Bosgaurus (center)

La Viet has a great warehouse/coffee shop/selecting facility in Da Lat, an all-in-one space with an industrial design (couldn’t have been otherwise) where you can have a tour of the selection and roasting processes and finish with a great cup of coffee served in the coffee shop.

Products exposed for sale (coffee, tea, chocolate, etc)

Packed and ready to sell coffee (whole beans or ground)

The coffee is processed on the farms and starting with the hulling step, the beans are brought in La Viet’s warehouse. La Viet has about 30 ha of coffee plantations and also work with other farms in the region. Last year they’ve cooperated with a little over 50 farms and they hope to get to 70 soon. 120 t of coffee have been processed in 2017 and the most quantity that goes to export goes to Japan and a small part in Australia. About 90% of the beans are washed and 10% honey processed.

The warehouse (the barn) is very well equipped: they have hulling and polishing machines for removing the parchment; size sorting machine is sorting the beans on three size layers; density sorting machine is then sorting the higher density beans, the lighter ones being sent to defect processing and being sold at lower prices; colour sorting with two eyes sensors select only the green beans; 95% of the sorting is done by machines and there is a 5% done by hand: defect beans, fungus, insects, stones, immature beans, dry cherries. Three roasting Vina Nha Trang machines are available: 5 kg, 10 kg and 30 kg. An old 80 kg roaster is used now as a piece of museum for visitors.

Size sorting machine

Colour sorting machine

The last stage of the sorting process: hand sorting

The roasters

 

 

I’ve had some nice chats with the barista and we tried together (first time for them as well) a pour over made with the Japanese ceramic Loca filter. We’ve got a sweeter, herbal and cleaner taste with Loca than with the regular V60 paper filter.

La Viet coffee shop

Pour over with the Loca ceramic filter

Barista @work

A big effort is done for implementing the best practices at the farms. In Vietnam, strip harvesting is a known practice among the farmers, so one of the improvements that had to be done was handpicking cherry by cherry at their maximum ripeness. Another big issue, maybe one of the biggest where they had to focus their efforts and attention was the processing method, especially the fermentation process. Because the farmers have no previous comparison on how to do it properly, it is often an overlooked process and it is not controlled properly.

Last year in December I’ve tasted an experimental coffee at Bosgaurus, a Catimor type, honey processed, but the beans were vacuumed in plastic bags with yeast added to it. The taste of the V60 that I’ve tried was incredibly good, clear and fruity acidity with a sweet aftertaste. Outstanding results for a Vietnamese coffee, especially a Catimor type which is a hybrid between Robusta and Arabica.

This year they experimented the yeast fermentation process on a larger scale by adding yeast to the fermentation tanks in one of the farms and the results were very good. I’ll come back with more details later on, as I plan another trip to Da Lat very soon.

These people are pioneers in promoting the Vietnamese specialty coffee and their hard work and efforts are admirable, especially because they have to improve and implement the best practices and change minds from scratch. I’m looking forward to see how far it will go, staying close to this topic.

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