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New Vietnamese cafe ALAMBÉ coming to downtown Charlottetown

Pham Khanh Hiep, who moved to Charlottetown in August with his family, is planning to serve coffee made from Robusta beans, Arabica beans, and a blend of the two. TERRENCE MCEACHERN/THE GUARDIAN
Pham Khanh Hiep, who moved to Charlottetown in August with his family, is planning to serve coffee made from Robusta beans, Arabica beans, and a blend of the two. TERRENCE MCEACHERN/THE GUARDIAN
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Pham Khanh Hiep says it isn't unusual for him to start something new.

And in a couple of months – or possibly sooner – Hiep plans to offer Charlottetown coffee drinkers something new by opening up ALAMBÉ - a Vietnamese café at 119 Kent Street in Charlottetown.

The space previously occupied by MacAulay's Bakery next to the Humble Barber.

"There, I'll love to share with the consumer a new style of coffee," said Hiep, who moved to the Island from Saigon in August with his wife Minh and their daughters Tam, 18, and Thy, 12, and son Thach, 15.

Besides the opportunity to open up a coffee shop, Hiep has also enjoyed daily life in Charlottetown. In particuar, he's noticed how friendly and helpful people are, and how they tend to say 'hello' as they pass by on the street.

Following Brazil, Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world. The plan for the Charlottetown café is to offer customers coffee made from Robusta beans, which are native to Vietnam, Arabica beans, or different blends of the two. Compared to Arabica coffee, Robusta is stronger and less acidic, he said.

The new café will have seating for customers, and Hiep is already talking to local suppliers to offer customers with pastry or muffins to have with their coffee.

"I realized that those go very nice with coffee. When you have muffins and donuts, and with a little bit of strong coffee, it makes people feeling very strong and active right away," he said.

He is planning to hire four to six people, including a full-time and part-time barista.

Hiep is an experienced coffee roaster, and is the founder and owner of the ALAMBÉ: Finest Vietnamese Coffee roasting and supply business in Vietnam. Two coffee roasters at that business will be responsible for supplying the Charlottetown café, including having different types of his ALAMBÉ coffee brand for sale to locals and tourists.

Some of the keys to roasting coffee beans include the quality, origin and size of the beans, and adjusting the temperature and air flow to give the desired strength and flavour. Also, because of the weather, coffee roasting in Vietnam can be a bit tricky, Hiep said.

"In Saigon, we have only two seasons - the rainy season and the sunny season. And, in the rainy season, the (humitity) is very high, we have to roast different. And in the sunny season, the (humitity) is quite low, then we have to roast different. Just one, two degrees (Celcius) different. But if we don't adjust accordingly, we're going to have trouble in the quality."

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