The owner of Portland Cà Phê, Kimberly Dam, wants to offer all of the popular coffee beverages found in any typical coffee shop, but with a twist: coffee beans grown and imported from Vietnam.
“What I wanted to convey with Portland Cà Phê was that it could be enjoyed in any manner you prefer your coffee, whether it’s a simple espresso, a drip coffee, or a latte, and you’re getting it with Vietnamese beans,” Dam explains.
Customers are greeted to the sounds and aromas of freshly brewed coffee and toasted bánh m, Vietnamese sandwiches stuffed with roast pork or chicken and fresh herbs, on the corner of Southeast 28th Ave. and Holgate Blvd.
“I appreciate having a pattern in the morning, knowing my regulars, and simply having a nice time,” Dam adds. “It’s a low-stress profession for me; it’s simply something I like doing, building ties with people in your neighbourhood and making friends,” she says.
Her shop’s name is derived from the Vietnamese words “cà phê,” which means “coffee.” Dam, a Vietnamese-American, drew inspiration from her personal visits to Vietnam and observations of the local coffee culture.
She chuckles as she says, “That’s all they’d do.” “They sit outside and talk with their loved ones while drinking coffee or tea. They would also consume coffee all day.”
Dam wished to bring the similar sense of community to Portland.
She claims that true Vietnamese coffee requires the use of particular regionally produced beans. In the United States, most coffee cafes will utilise arabica beans, which are sweeter. Vietnam’s coffee beans are mostly robusta beans, which are more bitter and farmed in the country’s central highlands.
Cà phê sa á [cah-FEH soo-ah DAH], or Vietnamese iced coffee, is an espresso-strength coffee prepared from those robusta beans, blended with sweetened condensed milk, and served chilled.
“When people talk about cà phê sa á, they usually remark about how powerful and caffeine-rich it is… Typically, it’s made bitter and black, then mixed with condensed milk to create a sweet, powerful drink,” Dam adds.
Dam thinks that her coffee shop will contribute to a shift in the perception of Vietnam’s role in the coffee business.
“All I want is to see more Vietnamese coffee beans available in other cafes and companies, and for the perception of Vietnamese coffee to shift away from cà phê sa á,” she added.