A Pandemic-Born Vietnamese Coffee Brand to Open Its First Cafe in Chicago

A brand of Vietnamese coffee established during the early stages of the pandemic will soon open its first permanent cafe in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Fat Miilk, which will debut as a mail order brand in September 2020, aims to open before Thanksgiving at 5018 N. Broadway Street, nestled among a longstanding community of Vietnamese-owned restaurants and businesses.

The neighborhood and proximity to the banh mi experts at Ba Le Sandwiches were major draws for owner Lan Ho. “When it comes to what’s already there [in the neighborhood], it’s a no-brainer for us,” she says. “It made perfect sense for our new, innovative Vietnamese coffee concept to be located there, given the abundance of incredible Vietnamese restaurants in the area and the board of commerce’s emphasis on the area’s growth.”

Behind a row of colorful coffee pods is a row of colorful cartons.
The Chicago cafe owned by Fat Miilk could become the flagship of an empire. Fat Miilk Vietnamese coffee beans and the country’s coffee culture serve as the brand’s defining characteristics. At its inception, Fat Miilk distinguished itself in the competitive at-home coffee brewing market by focusing on robusta beans sourced directly from Vietnamese specialty farmers. U.S. coffee drinkers are accustomed to arabica, a coffee bean that is typically considered sweet and fruity, as opposed to the robust, nutty, and chocolate profile of robusta, which Ho believes is too often overlooked as a secondary product.

Due to a series of pop-ups held by Fat Miilk over the past two years, the unfairly maligned bean and its treatment at the hands of Ho and her team already have a local following. Unsurprisingly, Uptown events attracted the largest crowds, and Ho claims that residents would travel to other parts of the city for a cup of coffee (or several). In Ho’s opinion, the best way to brew and present Fat Miilk is through a slow-drip phin filter and sweetened condensed milk. Fat Miilk used the events to educate the public about the brewing process and presentation.

Read more • chicago.eater.com

Suggested Reading