By: Julieta Hernandez Photos by: Rachel Benavides
When Christian Hoang opened SaiGon Civet Cafe, he created a bridge for locals in the South Texas area to experience a traditional Vietnamese cup of coffee.
SaiGon Civet Cafe delivers its coffee in a true farm-to-table manner through a friendly partnership with Mr. Khanh, a third-generation coffee farmer in the lush, green city of Buôn Mê Thuôc, Vietnam.
“One thing about Mr. Khanh is that he’d never exported his beans into the United States before, or even out of Vietnam,” Hoang said. “So when I met him, I said, ‘Well, why don’t you let me be the first one to bring your coffee beans into the United States?’”
The balanced entrepreneur and barista did just that, and since then, he’s been giving locals a taste of Vietnam in every cup.
Khanh’s imported beans are roasted in-house into a smoky and aromatic robusta batch. This is what the coffee shop uses for its house espresso. For the Vietnamese drip specialty, however, the batch roast is intentionally darker and more intense; a slower burn at a higher temperature. It’s more acidic, bitter, and a lot less fruity.
SaiGon Civet’s signature Vietnamese drip coffee begins with a steamed glass, made warm to hold the flavors and soften the condensed milk. With the milk added, the barista places a phin, a traditional Vietnamese coffee press, over the glass. After adding robusta grounds from beans they have roasted to perfection, hot water is poured in a circular motion inside the phin to encourage even filtering.
The slow drip gives the sweetened condensed milk time to fuse flavors without rush. “With the condensed milk, one would think it would be too sweet and overpower the coffee,” explained barista Sterling Michael Ramirez as he carefully stirs the phin. “But with this mixture, you get a perfect balance. The boldness is still shining through; you get the bitterness, but it’s tamed.”
With an expanding menu and clever imports, such as its new Pandan leaf lattes, Hoang brings new flavors to the coffee scene in town while getting to know his clients.
“I’d like for people to stay in and sit. All I care about is giving out a good cup of coffee,” Hoang said as he flashed a smile my way and tied on his apron. “That’s all I care about. I’m trying to bring Vietnamese culture into Corpus Christi.”
2222 Airline Rd. Suite: A1 | @vietnamcoffeeroastery