Community Spotlight · Lava Java, Ridgefield, WA
In the early 2000s, Phuong Tran was working in IT when an opportunity presented itself to her. Her sister was operating a tanning salon in Ridgefield, Wash., and the coffee shop next door to her business went up for sale. “I thought having a side-hustle business like a coffee shop would be cool,” Phuong says now. “I was young and naive and made the decision to just go for it.”
While she now laughs at the impulsivity of her decision, it ended up being a stroke of genius. Phuong bought Lava Java in 2002, and in fall 2022, she celebrated her 20th anniversary of owning the coffee shop, which has become a staple of the Ridgefield community. Along the way, Phuong has become a pillar of the specialty-coffee world as well. She established a name for herself in the coffee competition world by winning the 2005 U.S. Barista Championship—then placing seventh at the 2005 World Barista Championship—and has served as an industry consultant in addition to operating Lava Java.
But in the early days of Lava Java, Phuong was far from the knowledgable coffee professional she is now. She immersed herself in educational resources and attended trade shows, where she discovered not just valuable information to transform her business into a great specialty-coffee shop, but where she also found barista competitions. Though she wasn’t eager to compete at first, a couple of baristas at Lava Java expressed interest in competing, and Phuong followed the advice of friends in the coffee industry that if she wanted to coach her team to compete, she should have some experience in competing as well.
Phuong’s 2005 USBC-winning campaign was just her second year of competing, and it transformed her life—and her industry persona—as she went from Northwest café owner to owner who also happens to be a national barista champion. “Looking back, I think it was definitely one of the best moments of my life,” Phuong says now. “Everything got real hectic overnight. … But many new doors and opportunities opened up for me. It brought so much attention and customers to my shop. Even to this day, people are still coming to visit Lava Java because they had heard about me and the USBC. I’m truly grateful for it all.”
While Phuong may have gained more public recognition, she never stopped focusing on her core business of Lava Java, and it has remained a go-to in Ridgefield. Her dependable team of baristas has included coffee professionals who’ve gone on to competition acclaim—including Billy Wilson, Ryan Willbur, and Cam Kellett—and Ridgefield locals have come to depend on the shop. “Over the last 20 years, Lava Java has established many loyal and long-lasting relationships with our customers, vendors, neighbors and communities. We have up to four generations of the same family who will all come in together for coffee with us,” Phuong says.
We at Pacific Barista Series™ were so excited to visit Phuong at Lava Java’s 20th anniversary celebration in October 2022. Phuong has been using Barista Series™ products at Lava Java since the shop’s opening, when our soy offering was called Soy Blenders. “Back then, I don’t think there was anyone else who invested time to focus on developing quality plant-based milk for specialty-coffee shops,” Phuong says.
She has continued to use Pacific products at Lava Java throughout the shop’s 20-year history. “I think what differentiates Barista Series from other products is the involvement in working with coffee professionals to find answers to the best tasting, steaming, and pouring plant-based beverages,” Phuong says. “I also appreciate how connected the brand is to the specialty-coffee industry, as well as showing up at events and is always supporting the coffee culture. Barista Series are the products we enjoy using ourselves and serving to our customers.”
We’re so excited to have partnered with Phuong for all these years, and we wish her a huge congratulations on the 20-year milestone!