In general, Canephora is not praised for their quality or taste. This coffee comes from Vietnam, a country that has been very successful in keeping itself from being appreciated for specialty coffee. As Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world, this seemed strange. That Germany is the number one importer of Vietnamese coffee even more so. So Vietnam contributes to coffee culture around the world, but remains almost invisible due to a lack of transparency and representation. Structurally, Vietnamese coffee is reserved for cheap espresso blends, instant coffee and energy drinks.
So, over the years we have been told time and again that Canephora is not a quality product. We have internalised that information. In the past, we have offered Vietnamese Arabica on our shelf. Even then, when we talked to coffee professionals, some seemed to think that its quality was inferior, that it was not “that good”, and only tried it out of curiosity. However, when it comes to Canephora, some, like us at the beginning, are not interested in giving it a chance, regardless of the fact that they may have never tried a speciality Canephora.
About a year ago we did our first canephora cupping and were quite disappointed. We didn’t know what to expect, or rather what not to expect. If we hadn’t before, we definitely formed an opinion that day about what canephoras are: bitter, tart, woody, unpleasant coffees that have no place in the specialty market.
Some time passed and we took up the issue again. We started to educate ourselves about the problems facing our community, the benefits of growing canephora, climate change and how it will become increasingly difficult to produce Arabica. We want to be careful with our words here and not give the impression that Robusta is the solution to climate change, but the situation requires adaptation. Robusta plants cope well with higher temperatures, less water and less shade, are better able to cope with diseases and pests, and produce higher yields.
The first Canephora we had the pleasure of roasting is grown near Bao Loc by Mr Toi Nguyen. It was processed using the Winey Natural process he developed. This is a mixture of prolonged anaerobic and natural fermentation, and is a rare opportunity to taste a canephora that has been treated with the same respect for the craft from start to finish as the best Arabicas in the world. If you’d like to know how we roast the Canephora, read on here. For more on brewing, here.
We believe that we consumers, baristas, shop owners, roasters, green bean suppliers and importers have certain responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is directly related to the core of the values and ethos we chose when we entered the world of Specialty coffee. Working with growers and not making them work for us is one of those values.
Everywhere in the world, not just here in the SUEDHANG, there are shelves that want to be filled. We want to use this space to expand our horizons. Canephora offers us opportunities to learn and grow. We want to dispel bad stigmas and stereotypes towards this plant.
That is why we are now taking a step forward. We are offering Mr. Toi as the first Canephora bean on our shelf. We don’t just see it as a source of caffeine, we join you in celebrating its complexity and diversity.