Thu is a coffee roaster, eternal educator, community advocate, a ray of joy, and a small business owner.
Thu co-runs Càphê Roasters, Philadelphia’s first and only Vietnamese specialty coffee roastery, with Raymond John. Thu and Ray met while working together at 12+, a nonprofit that partners with high schools in underserved communities to provide academic, college, and career support services that help students create a dedicated path beyond the 12th grade. Thu was a college and career advisor, and Ray continues to serve as CEO.
The partners wanted to build a social enterprise that would drive funding and create a personal and professional development program for 12+ students. One night, while bowling in South Philadelphia, Ray saw a flyer for the Storefront Challenge and worked with Thu and team to pitch their Càphê idea. The benefits and guarantees SHIFT had offered were too good to pass up: “We were afraid if we didn’t do it, we would regret it.” And the location in Kensington fit with their mission…12+ had been serving the same neighborhood for seven years at the time.
With the win, a Càphê was born. At least the roastery piece, first.
Thu and her partners got to work. They moved into MaKen Studios North where they brewed their concept. Thu put her nose to the books and eyes to the screen to learn best techniques. She collaborated with industry experts and local partners for advice and samples to refine her roasting and brewing skills. She invested in a $20 popcorn maker to roast beans to iterate on their flavors and products.
There are plentiful Philadelphia cafes throughout the city. What makes Càphê different? The blend of heart and heritage from Thu and team and the artfulness of the making. The main brew is tied to Thu’s Vietnamese heritage. Their coffee is crafted with single-sourced coffee beans direct from Vietnam. Its flavor and story have been developed to unite people beyond just a cup.
Over the last two years, Thu has shaped Càphê’s product lines and offerings and put the team on a strong trajectory forward. She attributes this growth to the intermixing of her team’s diverse skills and experiences with the meaningful partnerships they have developed. Thu leverages these relationships to sustain their wholesale partner program with mission-aligned companies and grocers who sell their products with a focus on giving back to their communities. Team Càphê also works with like-minded food, beverage, and hospitality groups on events far and wide across communities to build brand fans and extend their social capital to neighbors.
For Thu, the Storefront Challenge gave Càphê a space and financial investments and incentives to take their brainstorm to brew. It also helped her team forge a bond with SHIFT that showed her the power behind a landlord partner who believed in their long-term success.
Thu looks forward to the near future when Càphê opens its brick and mortar cafe serving unique coffee, beverages, food, and experiences while running a workforce development program for 12+ students and alumni. It will be a happy, move forward, connect and grow kind of space open for all.