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Chairman Vu, as he is widely known, reclines in his chair, cigar in hand and a portion of his most refined batch of his seductive dark drug in front of him. He started with nothing and now he has millions. 'The King' as he is also known, owns five Bentlys and ten Ferraris and talks breezily about his plans to purchase a helicopter to avoid the traffic of Vietnam's busy narrow streets. His grand, 12th story office is situated amongst a strip of 'Hair Salons' which certainly provide a service of sorts. The front a facade for the women that work from within. When he is not in his office working on his plan to conquer the world, he retreats to his vast home in the highlands of Vietnam, where he continues to muse over plans for world takeover, this time surrounded by 100 busts of predecessors who have afflicted the face of the planet before him. His revolutionary inspirations include the likes of Napoleon, Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung and set the bar high for him to aim for.


Followed, always, by an entourage of protection and sitting way up high in his grossly expensive cars he casts a glitzy shadow over his homeland. So why is he regarded so highly, in communist Vietnam, a country that has only fallen into ‘new wealth’ relatively recently? It’s because of his drug. His exportations have caused an increase in wealth throughout the population of Vietnam, with less than 10% of all citizens living below the poverty line a dramatic drop from the 60% calculated only two decades ago. With these figures and 2.6 million people working in the industry, it is no wonder that the citizens of Vietnam are in support of businesses like his.


Less than 10% of all citizens now live below the poverty line, a dramatic drop from the 60% calculated only two decades ago.

'It’s a stimu brain. The ri all consume a The moment from [IT] To country slo

ulant for the ch countries a lot of [IT]. t you switch o [THAT] the ows down.'

Chairman Vu

"It's a treasure. It's th heritage of mankind, the solution of the fu and I don't think that exaggeration.".

he it's uture t's an His empire started after he graduated. He was a high-flying student from humble backgrounds. He had started life much like most children in Vietnam, in a county home, helping his family tend crops and farm pigs. He studied hard at school and was particularly academic, initially training to become a physician. However, during his time at University, him and his friends became partial to the drug that has shaped his fortune. He consumed vast amounts of it and by the time he graduated, he announced his changed plans to his parents and they wept at his plans to pursue his taste for this new addiction, and reject a potential career in physiology. Since then, Chairman Vu has built a shrine to the beloved plant that has provided for him so fruitfully. With a multimillion pound ‘village’ dedicated to the crop on the exact spot the business started.


Chairman Vu’s billion dollar company is the provider for a substance that is consumed all around the world. It is a substance which is second most traded in the world, only to oil and fuels the addiction of billions of addicts alike. The substance is coffee. The drug is caffeine and Vietnam is the second largest exporter today.

* Robusta beans produce a lower quality coffee which is predominantly used of instant coffee. Instant coffee accounts for 80% of the coffee drunk in Britain.

Vietnam produces Robusta beans, which make a lower quality coffee which is used predominantly for instant coffee. To give an idea of perspective, instant coffee accounts for 80% of the coffee drunk in Britain which is a huge factor in the sudden coffee boom that grew in Vietnam from the 1970s/80s. It was a trend started by the middle class 1980s that caused instant coffee to suddenly rocket in popularity and since then we now consume twice as much of the stuff. By the 1990s Vietnman’s coffee production was increasing by 20%-30% annually and the industry now employs 2.6 million people.

Although the Vietnamese export 22 million bags of coffee per year (60kg) they are not huge consumers themselves, preferring to drink tea. If they do drink coffee it’s usually drunk with an egg or condensed milk. Experts say that the reason behind Vietnam’s poor quality beans is the amount of fertiliser and water they use on their crops. Dr Dave D’Haeze, a Belgian soil expert says that this is due to the farmers never having been fully trained in coffee growing, as most of them have built up their plots themselves and have learnt to grow coffee just through the experience they have had.

“Every farmer in Vietnam is the researcher of his own plot.” - Dr Dave D’Haeze

'We want to br coffee culture to going to be easy year we want to c big brands lik

ring Vietnamese the world. It isn't y but in the next compete with the ke Starbucks.' - Chairman VU

! But the coffee boom has had negative impacts. In the 1990s, when coffee price was high, entire forests were razed to make space for more coffee, which are over fertilised and farmed with heavy use of agrochemicals and overirrigation; again a problem derived from a lack of training and the sudden huge burst of farmers attempting to break into the coffee trade.

entire fo razed to m more

The above issues mean that beans are cultivated with little regard for the effects on the environment, which resulted in a surge of low quality beans being exported and the value dropping, contributing to the global collapse of coffee prices in the 2000s. The amount of coffee farms that were appearing meant that habitats were getting destroyed and pollution was spreading. These factors have caused a loss of biodiversity in what was once of the most biologically diverse countries in south-east Asia.


Working with global companies like Kraft Foods and NestlĂŠ, conservation agencies hope to reach large numbers of farmers and spread the concept of sustainability to all the coffee production areas

orests were make space for e coffee The issues with coffee farming in Vietnam are beginning to be recognised by the government, and as the demand for product continues to rise they are attempting to put in place ideas and regulations for maintaining the infrastructure of the land and the economy. Farms that earlier had only produced coffee, now also grow sugar cane, pepper vines, pimentos and other crops. These crops improve the soil, protect the coffee plants from pests and provide additional income. Farmers have also planted hundreds of trees, such as acacia and papaya, to shield coffee plants from the sun, protect the soil and reduce the amount of water needed. And they have learned how to reduce their reliance on agrochemicals, segregate their waste, harvest only ripe cherries and protect the wildlife on their farms.


Vu has a model plantation that aims to increase the quantity and quality of Vietnam’s coffee by employing an irrigation system from Israel and special fertilizer from Finland. A goal is for Vietnam, the world’s top producer of harsher, cheaper Robusta beans, to boost acreage for smoother, pricier Arabica.

Chairman Vu  
Chairman Vu