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SF’s New Vietnamese Coffee Pop-Up, Kasama Cà Phê

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Have you ever tried high-quality, Southeast Asian-grown coffee?  We’re all familiar with the Bay Area’s abundance of third wave coffee roasters and cafes, but it’s time to get to know a new coffee pop-up, Kasama Cà Phê

Kasama Cà Phê is a cafe concept that’s all about sharing Southeast Asian coffee and culture with San Francisco.  Their flavor profiles and brewing techniques are inspired by coffee from Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and more.  The founders, Erik and Kevin, were inspired by their cultural backgrounds when naming the pop-up: Kasama represents companionship (or togetherness) in Filipino culture, and cà phê means coffee in Vietnamese.  Find more information at kasamacaphe.com and across social at @kasamacaphe.

Hi Erik + Kevin, could you tell me about the coffee scene in Southeast Asia?
The cafe culture in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam, is unlike any other place in the world. Culturally, it’s more slow-paced compared to here, from how people enjoy coffee to the way it’s brewed.  We wanted to embody that experience while sharing the different flavor profiles and brewing techniques from Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and more.

We found that Vietnam is actually the second largest producer of coffee in the world, but it’s relatively unknown in Western coffee culture (compared to other South American or African countries).  Recently, there’s been a big push for higher quality coffee production in Vietnam’s highland region, so we wanted to champion that movement.  Some of our favorite third-wave roasters and cafes who are spearheading the Southeast Asian scene are K’Ho Coffee, Nguyen Coffee Supply, and Kalsada Coffee.

Why did you want to start a coffee pop-up?  Did you have experience with coffee before Kasama Cà Phê?
Growing up in the Bay Area, Vietnamese coffee, or cà phê sữa đá, is something you’d only find at places like phở restaurants or bánh mì shops.  And even then, it’d be brewed with some kind of pre-ground coffee like Café Du Monde. The OG method has its place, but we wanted to pay homage by making the best cup of cà phê sữa đá possible, using high-quality, Vietnam-grown coffee beans, freshly ground and thoughtfully brewed with a more third-wave approach.

Before Kasama, neither of us worked in the coffee space, but we always enjoyed and were inspired by the café experience as customers– especially in Vietnam, there’s something charming and therapeutic about sitting on a low plastic stool, drinking a slowly dripped cà phê sữa đá, and watching the motorbikes go by 💨

Are any of the fusion items– like the ube affogato– on the menu inspired by anything specific?
As Filipino American and Vietnamese American co-founders, the ube affogato is a representation of our cultural backgrounds coming together. We wanted to do our a take on an affogato, so naturally we paired ube (Philippine purple yam) ice cream with our Vietnamese coffee, and it’s been a customer favorite since day one. We’re always exploring new ways to take our favorite flavors growing up and tie them into our menu.

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Your first pop-up was a few months ago, how was that experience?
It was definitely a humbling and fulfilling experience for both of us—we didn’t expect such a big turnout, so we were surprised that our coffee and affogatos sold out!  There were some hiccups, but we made it work and we’re just grateful for all the support and patience. We’re always learning and striving to improve the pop-up experience for our customers.

Favorite place to get coffee in SF?
Erik: Saint Frank is my go-to, Sightglass for the flex, Boba Guys for coffee milk tea, Mai Mai for Vietnamese coffee. So many gems all over the city!
Kevin: Sightglass, with the awesome space, the high ceiling, and smell of the fresh roast. Back in school, I used to hit up the Blue Bottle out of the W.C. Morse building in Oakland—great natural light 👌

It feels like everyone gets coffee when hanging out with their friends; what else do you do for fun when hanging out with friends?
E: We have some pretty talented friends, sometimes we’ll make music or work on other creative side projects together. I’m really into food, so exploring the local dining scene is always fun; always down for a bootleg Chef’s Night Out, where all we do is hit up our favorite spots back-to-back until the food coma hits 🔥
K: To add on, we are interested in photography and cinematography, so naturally we shoot in our travels or for freelance work.  Also big on fashion and music, so I occasionally stroll into random boutiques or hit up concerts (the Just Like Heaven festival lineup got me nostalgic for my latter high school years).

RSVP FOR THE NEXT KASAMA CÀ PHÊ POP-UP:
Sunday, 03/24 and Sunday, 04/28
8am–10am @ MAC’D, 2127 Polk St.
12pm–3pm @ The Brew Coop, 819 Valencia St.

 

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Kirsten Chen

Kirsten Chen

@kirstensly bay area art enthusiast and writer

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