Bikes and coffee have gone hand in hand for years. Now, a French lover of them both is making it his business
There are lots of things you stop noticing after a while here in Vietnam, like middle-aged women getting about in their pyjamas after 3pm. You’re never not aware that it’s going on, but after a certain amount of time, it no longer makes you giggle quite as much.
Basically, if you’re a long-termer, it starts to take something truly out of the ordinary to make you pay attention, which is what I did when I witnessed the recent sight of a well-dressed foreigner making ca phe sua da from a bicycle-cum-coffee shop on the side of a road in District 2.
Since the beginning of March, mostly along Xuan Thuy in Thao Dien, Coffee Spin or Spin Coffee, has been causing a small stir, entering what many might have thought to be a saturated market, offering good quality, reasonably priced coffee.
The well-dressed foreigner in question is Frenchman Vincent Demailly. He, along with his business partner Truong Que Phuong, have been trading in locally produced and hand-pressed coffee from their mobile café emporium. And they’ve quickly discovered that the locals’ thirst for the bean is far from sated.
Vincent explained to me that bringing coffee back to the street in such an interesting yet traditional way, is something that people can relate to. An industrial designer with a love of custom, quality bicycles and motorbikes, he designed the vintage-looking trike himself, and while he considers this model a prototype, it’s been getting its fair share of attention. For him, it’s been about combining his love of good design and good coffee, and presenting it in a way that people feel connected to. It’s one step forward with a definite nod to the past.
The Marseilles native says that coffee is a simple product that people appreciate when made well, so by offering it to them outside, where they are, without having to go into any one of an increasing number of chain stores, Coffee Spin retains a personal, human touch.
“We’ve been meeting a lot of people,” Vincent says, “and by being here I think we’re teaching people that good coffee, not the poor-quality chemical stuff you usually buy on the street, doesn’t have to be too much more expensive either. It’s also a more ecological product, and a lot of people like that. We don’t need fuel or electricity to make good coffee.”
Vincent, Phuong and another partner Quynh source all their beans from Dalat. The beans are brought to Saigon by the plantation owner himself, roasted in Saigon and ground every morning at Vincent’s home and on-site.
Friends on the Street
It’s an idea he’s had in his head for several years, since he started hearing all the bad press about the local street coffee. But without a Vietnamese partner, it’s remained just that.
Now, with Phuong and Quynh very much at the heart, he is finally on the ground living his idea, and with the smiles and love they’ve been getting from people every day, they’re considering expanding the fleet.
“For sure we would like to spread the idea of making ecological and clean coffee,” Vincent says. “Soon I think we will have more bikes like this in District 3, District 7 and District 1 — why not?
“But what I think is very important is the idea that we are preserving what people like in this country, the culture of eating and drinking with friends on the street, and I think even as people become more able to afford to eat indoors, it’s something Vietnam needs to hang on to.”
To find out where Vincent, Phuong and Quynh will be each day, head to their page facebook.com/CoffeeSpinSaigon. You can find them most mornings from 7.30am opposite North End Deli on Xuan Thuy, Q2, HCMC