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Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf see big potential for Vietnam’s coffee   2010-08-06 - Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon

Jay Isais, a senior executive of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a large global café chain, said that Vietnam’s coffee is likely to meet the chain’s requirements after three or four years.


Currently, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is purchasing coffee from 16 countries in order to make products sold at the chain’s café shops worldwide, including four shops in Vietnam.


However, to the surprise of many, the list of the 16 countries does not include Vietnam, the second biggest coffee exporter in the world


According to Jay Isais, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf bases its decision to purchase types of coffee based on two factors.  The most important factor is the quality and the flavor of the coffee. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf takes samples of coffee beans, roasts and grinds them, and then makes coffee. After tasting the coffee, the company gives scores to different samples. If some samples meet their requirements, the company attempts to learn more about the origin of the product, its prices, and supply sources in order to determine whether the coffee beans should be purchased.


The second factor is the originality of the coffee compared with products from other markets. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is also interested in the way coffee plantations are managed.  The company always tries to find out if the plantations’ owners are environmentally conscious and treat their workers well.   An enthusiasm for growing and developing coffee also helps.

Jay Isais gave an interview to Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon in early August when he paid a working visit to HCM City.  When asked about the quality of Vietnam’s coffee, Mr. Isais said that a coffee product is considered to have met The Coffee Bean’s standards when it receives a minimum score of 80/100. Vietnam’s coffee products are now scoring 70/100, which is fairly close to the cut-off.

Mr Jay Isais said he witnessed the impressive efforts made by the Vietnamese when attempting to upgrade its coffee quality score from 60 to 70. “I think that Vietnam’s coffee can reach 80 in just a few more years, and can possibly obtain scores of 85 or 90 in the future,” he said.


He has pointed out that one of the biggest problems with Vietnam’s coffee industry is that farmers still pick unripe coffee beans, which negatively affects the quality of coffee.


He said that a message should be sent to farmers that when they sell higher quality coffee, they will get more money. In Costa Rica, for example, a standard coffee price is set, with higher prices paid for high quality products, and lower prices paid for coffee with many unripe beans.

When farmers realize that they can get more money for higher quality products, they will try to upgrade the quality of their products.

Mr Jay Isais believes that Asia will be the most bustling coffee production region in the world in the near future.  Other regions in the world like Central America have been fully exploited and operations there can no longer be expanded.


When asked if Vietnam will have an opportunity to sell coffee to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, he said the chances are very good, but it will still take some time before Vietnam’s coffee is able to meet The Coffee Bean’s quality requirements. He said the growing of Arabica coffee has been going well in Vietnam, and that the product may meet The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s requirements in three or four years.

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