How a Vietnamese Coffee Expert Spends Her Sundays

Sahra Nguyen of Nguyen Coffee Supply, the first Vietnamese-American importer, roaster, and supplier of Vietnamese coffee beans, takes us on a caffeinated voyage across Vietnam's unique coffee landscape. She spends her free time shopping, drinking cocktails, and playing pool.
January 11, 2022 | 08:20

Sahra Nguyen is in back-to-back Zoom or phone meetings all week as the creator of Nguyen Coffee Supply, a three-year-old company that imports and roasts Robusta beans from Vietnam (one of the world's top coffee producers and exporters). Then there are the continual appearances in the media.

Sahra Nguyen at home in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Sahra Nguyen at home in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Photo: NYT

On Sundays, which are traditionally reserved for errands and enjoyment, the entrepreneur regains his vigor. "I make time for myself, my boyfriend, and my friends, but my main priority is to eat and drink well."

Sahra Nguyen, 35, and her fiancé, Erics Kun, 34, the designer for Nguyen Coffee Supply, live in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

When she was first establishing her business, Sarah shared that she didn’t pay herself for over a year and lived in an apartment with no heat.

“As a new business owner, there’s so much for me to learn and capture, and I feel like everything is very time-sensitive. This is why I turn into a blob on Saturdays and just sit on the couch," Sahra expressed.

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.”

Morning stretch, pre-coffee.Credit...
Morning stretch, pre-coffee. Photo: NYT

Without an alarm, Sarah shared that she normally gets up before 8 a.m. She would spend around 15 minutes doing some gentle stretching or yoga.

"I don't have a regular exercise program, yet my hamstrings have recently grown really weak. Because I work from home, I believe it's because I've been sitting so much. When I walk, I don't elevate my knees and drag my feet. Strengthening my hamstrings was recommended by a buddy who is an occupational therapist, so that's what I've been doing," said Sarah according to New York Times.

Sarah Nguyen shares her process of making coffee in the morning, "I prepare coffee when my boyfriend gets up, which is normally an hour later than me. I use a phin filter, a piece of traditional Vietnamese brew equipment, for normal coffee. I occasionally prepare a latte with an espresso machine."

"I make my coffee with steamed milk and a dash of sweetened condensed milk. We'll head to Mixtape on Myrtle Avenue for coffee if we go out. I'm sitting on a stool, people-watching. Linh Nguyen, a co-owner, and I are good friends, and I am the godmother to his dog, Milk," expressed Sarah.

How a Vietnamese Coffee Expert Spends Her Sundays
An outing to the Lower East Side of Manhattan with her boyfriend, Erics Kun. Photo: NYT

Sarah Nguyen and her boyfriend are often in Manhattan on Sundays because parking fees are inessential. Erics and Sarah would cross a bridge and drive in to visit their friends, many of whom are in the food business and have restaurants.

She describes, "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."

How a Vietnamese Coffee Expert Spends Her Sundays
At Ho Foods in the East Village: Ms. Nguyen with, from far left, her cousin Jane Nguyen, Mr. Kun and Richard Ho, owner and chef. Photo: NYT

On Sunday, Sarah would go pick up glassware for the upcoming shoots. She said, "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."

The couple enjoys going to bars and sipping on a tasty cocktail. "We'll sometimes choose a location that reminds us of Paris or Italy. The boulevardier is a favorite of ours. That is something I will drink virtually every day," Sarah told The New York Times.

She also enjoys playing pool, saying, "My cousin Jane and I used to go to different bars around town to play, and I still enjoy playing at the end of the day. Otherwise, I'll text my buddies to see what they're up to and join them in whatever activity they're participating in."

How a Vietnamese Coffee Expert Spends Her Sundays
At Tan Tin Hung Supermarket. Photo: NYT

After that, Sarah goes 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," Sarah said.

How a Vietnamese Coffee Expert Spends Her Sundays
Playing pool at Ace Bar in the East Village. “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.” Photo: NYT

"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," Sarah added. "I tend to get back into light work mode in the early evenings by catching up on emails and preparing 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."

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