by Kieu Linh & Ha Nguyen
Despite economic difficulties, many residents of the capital have found a way to earn a stable living.
Trieu Van Thuong, from the northern province of Hung Yen, sells "roam coffee" in the city's downtown.
He often wakes up very early in the morning to pedal his bicycle to a wholesale shop in Thanh Xuan District to purchase a bottle of 1.5 litres of already-made coffee, safe ice, sugar, disposable paper cups and plastic spoons, placing them in a wooden box labelled "Roam Coffee", along with his phone number.
"In the summer, I often start work at 7am to bring my coffee to many streets in the city to serve customers, including local people and foreigners," said Thuong.
By chance, I met Thuong as he was serving a cup of coffee to a foreign couple from Australia on Le Quy Don Street.
Asked about Thuong's coffee, Andy Brian said he likes to drink such coffee because, apart from the quality, it is reasonable at VND10,000 per cup compared with VND25,000 - 30,000 in a shop.
"The most important thing is that it is very refreshing, convenient. We do not have to enter a shop while touring the city," Brian said, adding, however, that his girlfriend has some concern about whether the coffee is safe to drink.
Thuong told Viet Nam News that he has been selling coffee for almost one year, and received no complaints.
He often sells between 50 to 60 cups a day to his office customers who phone every day, earning between VND5-6 million a month.
"I'm very happy, not only with such a stable income, but also for introducing a new type of drink to Hanoians. Many people, particularly middle-aged residents in Ha Noi's Old Quarter, have ordered me to deliver coffee every morning at 8," Thuong said.
Tran Thi Yen, 60, in Hang Gai Street, said she and her friends often wait in the morning for Thuong to bring coffee to their home.
"We are pleased about his coffee and his serving style. It's very professional. He always comes on time because he knows that we are coffee addicts," said Yen, adding that she saves some VND500,000 per month, compared to drinking coffee in a shop near her house.
Asked about his coffee sources, he said the coffee beans are from Viet Nam's birthplace of coffee, Buon Ma Thuot in the Central Highlands, and the northwestern province of Son La delivered by Pham Van Ton, his wholesale seller from Ha Noi's Cau Giay District.
Ton, 35, said he has had a passion about coffee since he was young.
"I have seen the model of roam coffee in many countries. I began selling it in Ha Noi in 2012 to serve people at affordable price," said Ton.
Asked how he could sell his coffee at such a price, Ton said he directly orders coffee beans from his relatives in Buon Ma Thuot and Son La, costing VND30,000 per kilo.
"Before opening the business, I learned a technique of roasting and grinding coffee from my 65-year-old uncle, who has almost 45 years of experience in the business," said Ton.
Ton said he plans to recruit about 200 workers to sell his coffee, along with 10 centres to supply already-made coffee for them.
"I plan to purchase 16 tonnes of coffee this year to supply the increasing demand. I'm thinking of setting up an automatic coffee machine at a crowded place, just like it is available in Western countries," said Ton.
If the model is successful in Ha Noi, Ton said he plans to develop it in other cities and provinces, such as Da Nang, Hai Phong and Quang Ninh.
I was very impressed when Ton said he would establish Roam Coffee [company] so unemployed people or poor students could have stable jobs.
"Despite not earning high profits, I'm still happy because I've seen many of my workers' families escape hunger and poverty, while poor students have money to spend for their studies."
He invited me to drink a cup of his coffee. Although I am not a coffee connoisseur, I still enjoyed it because it's delicious.
I hope Ton's Roam Coffee service will become well-known by customers both inside and outside the country.
Roam coffee was first introduced in HCM City more than five decades ago, though there were very few vendors at that time. — VNS