Three years ago, I founded Nguyen Coffee Supply from my tiny Brooklyn apartment. My goal was to bring visibility to Vietnamese culture and heritage, which up until that point, had been largely rendered invisible in the specialty coffee narrative.
Vietnam, surprisingly, is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world. It has such a rich history and unique brewing style. Yet, in the current wave of specialty coffee, the Vietnamese chocolatey robusta beans have been viewed as inferior or left off menus altogether. As the coffee industry ushers in the Fourth Wave of Coffee, it needs to tackle these inherent issues of visibility and representation.
And so, in 2018, I decided to take action to transform the coffee industry through diversity, inclusion, and cultural integrity. Today, Nguyen Coffee Supply is proud to be the first roaster in the U.S. to import single-origin Vietnamese robusta and arabica beans. These farmers have been left out of the economic benefits from their coffee and labor. We hope to restore value to these products to invest back in these communities’ livelihoods.
We’re still very early on in our sustainability journey, but we’re pleased to be making good progress already on a number of fronts.
As part of our effort to promote inclusivity and deconstruct elitist, hierarchical attitudes within the coffee industry, we import both the arabica and robusta bean from Vietnam. However, when we speak of Vietnamese coffee and culture, it is largely centered around the robusta bean. Thus, we are proud to champion the resilient robusta bean, both for the culture, the mission and for the future of sustainability. We firmly believe that robusta is the future of both specialty coffee and sustainable coffee farming. As our planet warms, the robusta bean is more tolerant to rising temperatures than the commonly consumed arabica variety. On top of this, we are exploring how to incorporate more environmental initiatives across our value chain to ensure we’re playing our part in responding to the deep climate crisis.
Beyond caring for our environment, we feel a responsibility to positively impact the communities we touch throughout our whole value chain, especially those in Vietnam. Whether that be raising US $45,000 for COVID-19 relief or planting one thousand coffee trees in Vietnam, we are always looking for new ways to pay it forward to the communities that support our business.
As a woman and first-generation Vietnamese American, it means so much to be able to build a community of coffee lovers open to everyone. I’m always touched when other Vietnamese Americans who stumble across our brand confess to me, “I feel seen.” Diversity and inclusion is our raison d’etre and moving forward, we will continue widening the specialty coffee community through our brand, hiring practices, and social justice advocacy.
This first sustainability report is the natural next step in our sustainability efforts. To prepare this report, we analyzed every part of our organization to see what we do well, and where we can make improvements. As we continue reporting, we will develop tools to measure all of our impacts, both positive and negative, and to set the necessary goals to make our business more sustainable. We will continue to grow as a company, and we hope to grow in a sustainable way. I am so excited to share this report with you and to continue our sustainability journey!
Sahra Nguyen, Founder & CEO
While we've made a lot of progress in 3 short years, we recognize there is still much work to do, including:
- Find or develop a 100% recyclable or 100% compostable coffee packaging solution
- Eliminate the plastic bag currently being used to package our phin filters (made in Vietnam)
- Eliminate plastic from our shipping & packaging materials, including coating
- Develop systems to measure water & energy use
Many of these initiatives are already in development, right off the heels of our findings from our first Sustainability Report. Change takes time and it requires collaboration with our stakeholders. By our next Sustainability Report, we hope to share progress on these areas of improvement mentioned here.