How an Expert in Vietnamese Coffee Spends Her Sundays
As the founder of Nguyen Coffee Supply, a three-year-old business that imports and roasts Robusta beans from Vietnam (one of the top nations in coffee production and export), Sahra Nguyen is in back-to-back Zoom or phone meetings all week. And then there are the constant media appearances.
“As a new business owner, there’s so much for me to learn and capture, and I feel like everything is very time-sensitive,” she said. “This is why I turn into a blob on Saturdays and just sit on the couch.” (Not that she’s complaining; when she was first establishing her business, she said, she didn’t pay herself for over a year and lived in an apartment with no heat.)
The entrepreneur regains some pep on Sundays, which are typically marked for errands and fun. “I try to find time for myself, my boyfriend and my friends, but the focus is very much on eating and drinking well.”
Ms. Nguyen, 35, lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with her fiancé, Erics Kun, 34, the designer for Nguyen Coffee Supply.
WORK-FROM-HOME WOES I usually get up before 8 a.m. with no alarm. I do some light stretching or yoga for about 15 minutes. I don’t have a regular exercise routine but lately, I’ve noticed that my hamstrings have become really weak. I think it’s because I’ve been sitting so much as I work from home. I’m not lifting my knees, and dragging my feet when I walk. A friend who’s an occupational therapist told me to strengthen my hamstrings, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
THE PROCESS Once my boyfriend wakes up, usually an hour after me, I make coffee. For regular coffee, I use a phin filter, a traditional Vietnamese brew tool. Sometimes I make a latte, using an espresso machine. I use steamed milk but also add a dab of sweetened condensed milk. If we go out for coffee, we’ll go to Mixtape on Myrtle Avenue. I sit on a stool and people-watch. I am close with Linh Nguyen, a co-owner, and am the godmother to his dog, Milk.
CROSSING BRIDGES I’m often in Manhattan on Sundays because you don’t have to pay for parking. Erics and I will cross a bridge and drive in to visit our friends, many of whom are in the food business and have restaurants. I want to support them as much as I can, plus we get to eat the most delicious food. Recently we went to Ho Foods for beef noodles and to my friend Helen Nguyen’s restaurant Saigon Social on the Lower East Side. Helen and I are part of a small Vietnamese American woman boss crew, where we support each other through the small business grind.
BEAN BASICS Sometimes I will go pick up glassware I need for an upcoming shoot. A lot of the marketing I do at this point is demos and educating everyone on the difference between Robusta and Arabica beans, which is what most Americans import and drink. Robusta has a lot more caffeine and antioxidants, but less sugar. My goal for the next year is to get my beans into more retailers in the Northeast, but ultimately, I want to go national.
BOULEVARDIER, BILLIARDS My boyfriend and I love hanging out in bars and drinking a good cocktail. Sometimes we’ll pick a place that reminds us of Paris or Italy. We’re big fans of the boulevardier. I will drink that almost every day. I also love shooting pool. My cousin Jane and I used to go to different bars in the city to play, and I still like to cap off the day with a round. Otherwise, I’ll text my friends to see what they’re up to and join them in whatever they’re doing.
KEY INGREDIENTS I then grocery shop for the week. In Manhattan, I like to go to Tan Tin Hung Supermarket. They have very specific things I need for Vietnamese cooking, like fish sauce, noodles and herbs, like rice paddy herb, elephant ear plant and Vietnamese coriander. I also like the Longevity brand of sweetened condensed milk. There was another market I used to go to as well, but I think they’re closed now and I’m not sure if that’s permanent or not.
MAFIA TALES Once we are back in Brooklyn, we might do another round of grocery shopping, but this time at an American grocery store like Wegmans or Whole Foods. I tend to get back into light work mode in the early evenings by catching up on emails and prepare myself for the rest of the week. Then it’s time for dinner and TV to decompress. I’m fascinated by shows about the mafia or crime families because it’s about someone building a business from very little. I’m not condoning all the illegal, horrific things they did, but I have all these tech tools that empower and help my business grow. The old mafia and cartel guys had no tech and figured out very complex supply chains to grow their empire.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Sahra Nguyen on Instagram @nguyencoffeesupply.