Available in : Vietnamese
November 19, 2020
Inside building.coffee, one shouldn’t be surprised to encounter strange sounds, strong smells, and descriptors ranging from the scientific to the highly-simplified.
“Usually when I see the word ‘anaerobic,’ I become very nervous; I’m definitely getting tomato flavors in this cup, a little wine-like feel, plus vanilla on the back end; This one reminds me of that classic road-side diner experience; bad in the best way.”
That’s Will Frith, building’s founder and resident coffee expert, speaking between sips. His mission is, among other things, to create a de facto hub and community for specialty coffee in Saigon, all in one spot.
Having opened its doors in 2019 down a quiet street in District 2, building serves as a co-working roastery, a quality control lab with every piece of state-of-the-art equipment imaginable, and a venue for workshops. Most importantly, though, building is a gathering place where aspiring coffee entrepreneurs can benefit from the firsthand knowledge of an industry veteran.
Where coffee experience is concerned, Frith has done it all, his roles ranging from development consultant to wholesaler to roaster across operations in both the US and Southeast Asia. More recently, he has immersed himself in the world of Vietnamese coffee through both research and practice, working at the forefront of the country’s fast-growing specialty scene and consulting with local mainstays like The Workshop and La Viet.
It’s admittedly hard to keep up with the amount of new cafes cropping up in Saigon in any given month. Those working in the realm of specialty coffee—that is, coffee production emphasizing attention to sourcing, supply chains, and with an eye toward the highest quality, purest product—have seen an especially-pronounced uptick.
“It’s moving at a pretty amazing rate, but I’ve felt for a while that there wasn’t really a centralized place to get reliable information, to try things out, or even just get a network of people together with shared experiences in the industry,” Frith says. And by putting the imperative on community and fostering sustainable relationships rather than just the bottom line or high-speed production rates, Frith sees building as a way to help fuel Vietnamese specialty coffee long into the future. To do so, the team is there to realize any vision for the perfect coffee—whether that means launching a new cafe from square one, crafting a unique in-house roast for a restaurant, securing the requisite gear to take brewing to the next level, or every conceivable variation in between.
When selling their roasted coffee, building keeps things moving cyclically as well. After the right blend is developed, roasters and clients work together to continue to tweak, adapt, and address any challenges that may present along the way, creating, “a feedback loop that iterates and improves over time,” adds Frith. For individuals and home-brewers looking to get in on the secrets of building’s favorite coffees, they also keep a rotating roster on hand, made available for delivery straight to the doorstep.
As Frith notes, specialty coffee isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry. He sees taking an individualized approach as the way forward; and, with building, having the space to experiment makes all the difference. Here, a distinctly hands-on approach is preferred. “I want you to like what you like,” he says, while a steady stream of slurps from a cupping seminar punctuates the early afternoon buzz. “When someone comes to me with an idea, we take the time to understand together what fits best. Maybe it will take a few tries, but I think, at the end of the day, you know your taste and your customers best. We’re here to help you get there.”
Available in : Vietnamese