I didn’t know what I was walking into when I got off the Grab Bike and walked the last street over to Bosgaurus.
I wasn’t aware that I was going to be treated to some of the most enriching coffee conversations I would have in Viet Nam. I rolled out of my hostel bed that day expecting some pretty good coffee from Vietnam’s neighborhood joints, but it wasn’t in the plans at all that I would have the 2016 and 2017 Vietnam Barista Champion making me a cup of coffee.
Before I even get to the topic of Bosgaurus’s coffee chops, let’s take a look at their digs. I felt like walking into an NFA player’s bachelor pad: everything was glass, chrome and white. It’s exactly the kind of minimalist, cool, and hip interiors that I dig.
The Grab bike dropped me off in the middle of a very swanky, wooded neighbourhood with lots of townhouse-style apartments and whitewashed picket fences. It was something straight out of the Stepford Wives movies, and if that wasn’t an indication of how plush Bosgaurus’ settings were, I don’t know what was. I took a turn towards the river and it was evident that it was one of Saigon’s most premium lanes: it was well-manicured and polished, with a perfect view of the river at it snakes through on its way out to the sea.
I was welcomed into Bosgaurus’ plush interiors by Tranh Han, who for all intents and purposes, is basically a celebrity. She won the 2016 and 2017 rounds of Vietnam’s National Barista Championship, and went on to represent her country in the world stage. If you are a coffee fan, barista champions are the people to look up to as these are the guys who really know their shit, so to speak. The Barista Championships look at many different aspects of coffee craftsmanship, but if there is one thing that shines through, it really is the passion and the dedication to this noble beverage. It’s hours and hours of practice and hours and hours spent obsessing over every single small detail, since the slightest variations in grind size, temperature, brewing parameters and especially the quality of the coffee all yield different and noticeable results.
The coffee world is indeed small. Han knew some friends of mine who are very active in the Philippine coffee scene.
I sampled the Ethiopia Kaffa beans, which yielded a very nice tea-like consistency. It promised lemongrass notes, but I noticed that the bright acidity reminded me a lot of ngo gai, a Vietnamese herb that I recently discovered from exploring the cuisine and the culinary culture. Ngo gai, also known as culantro, has a very herbal taste, and I love that this flavor somehow made it to Ethiopian beans, which were grown halfway around the world.
Bosgaurus is great training ground for Vietnam’s most prolific baristas, as they really take their coffee seriously here. Every painstaking detail, from sourcing to roasting and to serving the perfect cup of coffee is watched with eagle-eyed precision.
When I was sitting on the bar waiting for my coffee to finish brewing from the syphon, I had the chance to meet the cafe owner, Nguyen Canh Hung who told me all about the cafe’s sourcing practices and the state of Vietnamese arabica. It was a stimulating conversation that highlighted the extent of Vietnamese artisanal culture. It’s fascinating to see how a more inward-looking and localised preference is budding in Vietnam, and it’s the same with their arabica culture and their chocolate industry, which is gaining traction all around the world with the success of its foremost chocolatier, Maison Marou.
I spent a few odd hours working in Bosgaurus, and it seemed like everyone in the area dropped by. It was at times busy, but I loved that they had a community feel because everyone seemed to know each other. There was also a bunch of people who came in with their canine friends, further emphasising the homey neighbourhood cafe vibe which betrays the international profile of this little coffee shop.
Saigon Pearl, Bình Thạnh
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Part of a series on the cafes, roasteries and coffee establishments that I visited during the Big Southeast Asia Coffee Crawl 2018, a trip dedicated to exploring the best coffee in the region.