Opened in February 2016, Bosgaurus was built on the space of a modern mansion facing the Saigon river in the Saigon Pearl neighborhood—a 15-minute commute from Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1. The city has many already established specialty coffee shops, namely The Workshop, Shin Coffee, and Saigon Coffee Roastery, but there are reasons that merit one’s trip out to this part of the city for a latte. Good coffee and beautiful aesthetics: Bosgaurus has both.
Nguyen Canh Hung, owner and roaster of Bosgaurus, formerly worked as an engineer before his European business trips guided him to specialty coffee: “I drank a lot of coffee during my stays in different cities in the world, but only after I had been to Berlin and Amsterdam did I know about specialty coffee,” he says. Despite being a “coffee layman,” as Nguyen puts it, “I could sense the fruitiness and sweetness aftertaste in my cup of filter coffee. That was an experience I didn't have in Vietnam—despite it being a coffee-producing country.”
Nguyen signed up for some SCAE courses and went on to hone his roasting skill with roasteries around the world, including Boot Coffee, Maruyama Coffee, and April Coffee Roasters before he opened Bosgaurus. Nguyen named his coffee shop after a species of bison native to Southeast Asia facing the risk of extinction; Bosgaurus the cafe similarly carries a dream of keeping Vietnamese coffee on the world map.
The cafe resembles a laboratory, with tones of grey and white made up by transparent frameless glass walls and stainless steel bar, tables, bar stools, and chairs. This design might startle locals, as the classic Vietnamese cafe tends to be filled with wooden tables accompanied by yellow ambient lighting, which casts a warm glow upon the sitting areas. But at Bosgaurus, it works, thanks to the nearby parks and trees with vibrant green foliage that brings a refreshing feel to the space.
You're at first greeted by baristas standing behind the counter of Bosgaurus' most astonishing piece of design: the flybar. Made from unibody stainless steel, the flybar is 9.6 meters long and 0.8 meters wide, and weighs almost 800kg, suspended from the ceiling of the first floor, yet remains surprisingly sturdy. It bears the additional weight of coffee equipment, including Synesso Hydra and Mahlkönig grinders. Filter selections are offered via Hario V60.
I had the pleasure of spending a long week frequenting Bosgaurus. At the time of my visit, the cafe was offering tasting flights with several single origins from Ethiopia, Kenya, and El Salvador sourced from Project Origin, a pulped natural Catuaí from Brazil, and exclusive lots of anaerobic and aerobic washed Catimor from Vietnam through a direct trade relationship with Pham Manh Hung.
While espresso-based beverages were served with a Colombian blend, all filter roasts were also available as espresso on request. At Bosgaurus, every detail matters, so coffees are dialed in every morning with a refractometer, and recipes are written down to keep track of the changes. Taking a step down to the basement, guests can see the glass warehouse where all the coffee is stored. The warehouse is constantly kept at a temperature of 20–22˚C with humidity around 50–60%.
Maintaining consistent quality in specialty coffee is a challenge, yet Nguyen has partners to back him up. Bosgaurus is home to talented baristas, notably Tran Han—two-time Vietnamese Barista Champion. Vu Tran Nguyen Anh, the reigning Vietnamese Barista Champion, also worked and trained by Bosgaurus at the time of her winning.
Typically, coffees at Bosgaurus are roasted light, as Nguyen prefers to showcase a coffee's flavor complexities while preserving regional characteristics. But Nguyen also offers dark roasts for customers who want a traditional espresso. “I’ve got something for everyone, as I don’t want a new customer to be intimidated by this whole new coffee concept,” said Nguyen. Dark roasts are also used in Ca phe Sua da, a traditional coffee drink in Vietnam brewed on Phin with a layer of condensed milk in the bottom. Aside from coffee, brunches and tropical fruit juices are also served at Bosgaurus—and don't miss out—they also have one of the best waffles in town.
Tung Nguyen is a freelance journalist based in Vietnam. Read more Tung Nguyen for Sprudge.