Vietfive Coffee provides rich blend of community, culture in the West Loop

When you think of coffee, you may not think of Vietnam. Tuan Huynh is on a mission to change that with his Vietfive Coffee Shop in the West Loop.

"We do coffees from plant to sip, harvest to roast," Huynh said. "We specialize in Robusta coffee grown and harvested on my family's farm in the central highlands of Vietnam."

In addition to the bold, smooth coffee options, such as the popular brew served with condensed cream, a crowd favorite at Vietfive is the OG Bahn Mi, served on fresh bread from nearby D'Amato's Bakery.

You can also get the Bahn Mi air-fried "empanada," or if you have a sweet tooth, try the Mochi donuts provided fresh daily by an Asian-owned business in Lincoln Park.

There's also a retail store and a red vespa parked in the dining area.

"The Vespa really reminds me of Vietnam, home. The identifiers of my memory of Vietnam are coffee, family and motorbikes," Huynh said.

Huynh came to this country as a young child along with two siblings and his parents. The family of five boarded a small boat with 50 other people who made the five-day journey to Malaysia. Then, after five months in a Kuala Lumpur refugee camp, they were accepted into the United States. He said the number five figured into his life so prominently he decided to put it in the name of his coffee shop.

"We get to share that story every day from Vietfive," Huynh said.

But Huynh's journey has had more than a few dark chapters. His family wound up in Virginia, then Kansas, where Huynh, at age 17, fell into a gang lifestyle, and wound up serving time for murder. After deep soul-searching and participating in a faith- based rehabilitation program, he was freed. He said he now wants to give back to the community as much as possible.

"We want to activate the space as a hub location for our community. From doing yoga and Boba to hosting portfolio nights to just providing a space for access to our community," he said.

He also wants to offer employment to others whose incarceration makes it difficult to find jobs.