Realizing the right passion, every day going to work with Lan is like going out, drinking coffee to the point of stomach pain and not bored.
“Like drinking coffee is one thing, trying dozens of types of coffee every day is another thing,” shared Dang The Lan, 32, who lives with cups of coffee. He is currently in Ho Chi Minh City, is the owner of 2 coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and has 2 barista training facilities.
The information technology international student loves bartending
Coffee is the chance, luck, and also the journey to find the true passion of The Lan. The information technology international student in Australia did not think he would stick with coffee in the future, turning to “living with coffee” by accident.
While in Australia, Lan discovered that he liked the art of drawing pictures on coffee cups when he witnessed the baristas (baristas). With the thought “Shall I do this?”, Lan learns to get a part-time job to cover living expenses while studying abroad. However, no shop accepts people without experience. Lan raised their determination by watching video tutorials online, documenting how they made their recipes. After that, he applied for a job as a waitress for a Vietnamese restaurant and asked the owner to let him practice using a coffee machine. Some time later, Lan made the first perfect cup of coffee. As a step to get more and more interested, he watched all the coffee teaching videos on the Internet and finally, when he was skilled, he was accepted by the shops.
“I don’t feel tired at all when making coffee, even though the shop in Australia is very crowded, I must say it’s terrible. One day, the shop has to sell 700 to 1,000 cups,” Lan recalls her student days. . Lan shared, Australians love to drink coffee and the shops are always packed with customers. They have a signature drink called “flat white”, a milky coffee that originated in New Zealand but is popular in Australia. Flat white has a thin layer of foam or no foam, as opposed to latte which usually has a thick layer of foam. When drinking flat white, you will feel more milky than coffee, comparable to silver suu in Vietnam.
After graduating, Lan stayed in Australia for 2 years and worked for an IT company, then returned to Vietnam at the end of 2015. At first, she only returned to change the atmosphere and planned to return to Australia, but then she returned. Lan realizes that the coffee industry in Vietnam has a development direction, as well as finds it more suitable for work in coffee than sitting at a desk, so he decides to stay and start the journey of sticking with coffee.
“This decision is very challenging for me, because I have to choose to give up everything and start over. I don’t know if this is the right choice? My parents invested a lot of money for me to study abroad but when When I returned, I chose not to follow the profession I studied,” The Lan confided.
‘The more I do it, the more I like it, even if my stomach hurts’
When working on coffee, Lan feels very comfortable, not constrained. Although he has tasted hundreds of coffees and drank so much that his stomach hurts, Lan “does better” and has never felt bored. For Lan, going to work every day is “like going out”.
Lan started by teaching bartenders to people who were about to study in Australia like him before. He hopes this can help international students easily apply for jobs when they first arrive, unlike him in the early stages. The investment capital is not too much, only includes an espresso machine and a few simple tools to support teaching. When some students returned home, visited him and told stories about working as a barista in Australia, he felt that what he was doing was very meaningful.
The job of tasting hundreds of cups of coffee a day may seem difficult to ordinary people, but it is normal for Lan. In addition to drinking coffee, he also analyzes how the taste changes when it’s hot and cold. In addition, Lan also has to remember and find the wrong flavors to overcome by changing the recipe or roasting. Coffee has hundreds of types, similarly there are hundreds of ways of roasting and preparing, giving off hundreds of different flavors. So this requires persistence and passion.
According to Lan, among foreign coffees, Vietnamese people are most interested in Italian coffee. However, if you are not a connoisseur, it is difficult to distinguish. From personal experience, Lan points out some simple ways. To distinguish latte, cappuccino or some other Italian drink, it’s a good idea to know a little about the ingredients.
The latte has an espresso shot as the first ingredient or can be substituted with a ristretto or lungo shot. The coffee is then mixed with hot whipped milk and has a milk foam about 0.5 to 1 cm thick. If in Vietnam, hot latte and cappuccino are usually served in porcelain cups, in foreign countries, latte are served in 150-180 ml glass cups. Cappuccino has similar ingredients, except for thicker milk foam, usually over 1.5 cm, served in 180-220 ml porcelain cups. In Australia, people often sprinkle a thin layer of chocolate on top of the cappuccino to distinguish it from latte.
Lan’s favorite coffee is Dirty Chai Latte, which is quite strange in Vietnam. This was the first dish he drank when he came to Australia, so every time he drank it, Lan remembered the time he spent working and studying in the land of kangaroos. Dirty Chai Latte is a shot of espresso mixed with hot whipped milk and vanilla chai powder. This dish has the bitter taste of coffee, the sweetness of milk and a very pleasant cinnamon smell.
‘Opening a coffee shop is easy, but maintaining and making a profit is difficult’
Vietnam’s coffee business is inherently diverse and quite developed. Lan said, many people think that opening a coffee shop is easy. That is true, but how to maintain and make a profit is difficult. Currently, many shops follow the movement, only interested in beautiful design and prime location, but forget that the soul of a coffee shop is at the bar, where the drinks are made to keep customers.
In the process of constantly moving between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to teach students, Lan came up with the idea of opening a coffee shop in Hanoi so that “when you have a place to be bored, you can go out and play when you don’t know what to do”. The shop is named Anh Hai Saigon with the style of Saigon toad coffee. After that, he opened a second coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City, called Saigon 90s, with the nostalgic style of the 90s. He shared that at first, customers came to the shop because the decoration was beautiful and strange. However, he thinks that if they come to his shop all the time because it’s beautiful, he will sometimes get bored and find new and nicer shops. Therefore, in addition to beautiful shop design, he focuses on products to attract customers to come next time. The target audience is coffee lovers when the menu has 80% of the items related to coffee.
One thing he realized is that in foreign countries, when going to cafes, most customers will drink coffee, while in Vietnam it is a bit different, will drink peach tea, juice or dishes without coffee.
At his shop, egg coffee is the best seller. Lan said that a cup of egg coffee will be delicious when the fishy taste is eliminated and he has made it, so many loyal customers come to drink for this dish. He once went to Hanoi to try egg coffee and was repulsed because it was fishy, even though it was delicious. This prompted Lan to return to Ho Chi Minh City, try different recipes and successfully eliminate the fishy taste of egg coffee.
Coffee is the potential to develop Vietnam’s tourism
According to Lan, Vietnam’s tourism has a lot of potential for development through coffee culture. “My country has very good coffee farms like in Cau Dat (Lam Dong). In the season, I often do tours for Australian friends to visit, show them how our country’s farmers make coffee, teach them how to make coffee. Vietnamese people drink coffee by filter,” he said. He emphasized, our country can develop tourism when promoting activities in the coffee season.
In addition, foreign tourists are interested in Vietnamese coffee because they mainly drink arabica beans, while Vietnamese drink robusta. In particular, only Vietnamese people make coffee with condensed milk, so Western customers are very interested in this. A unique Vietnamese coffee dish is egg coffee. Many foreign guests ask Lan when he comes to Vietnam if he “have egg coffee?”.
According to Lan, the profession of barista in Vietnam is still new and has not been recognized and respected by many people. It is considered by many people, especially students, as a temporary part-time job, so the salary is not very high. Many people are passionate about coffee but cannot follow because of the burden of rice and money. Lan said, in Vietnam, there is no official coffee-making contest recognized by the state to honor the barista profession.
As for himself, he has never been bored or overwhelmed with life always beside cups of coffee. Coffee gives him passion, career and income. Coffee allows you to meet the person you love. Coffee helps him meet many friends and interesting people.
“If I didn’t have coffee, I would be very bored, I would just be an office worker, sitting at a desk somewhere.”