A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in Amsterdam, a place I hadn’t been to in years and whose small but vibrant specialty coffee scene has grown significantly in recent years. While the number of quality shops are growing, it’s still possible to visit most, if not all, of them during a short visit and still have time for some of the city’s other cultural and recreational treasures.
The evening I arrived I headed directly to a gathering of local baristas for a Friday Bean Battle, which is basically a TNT (Thursday Night Latte Art Throwdown) that takes place on the first Friday of every month. The event was being held at Espresso Fabriek, one of the staples of the specialty coffee foundation in Amsterdam. There is no money or points involved in the battle, just a cool little trophy that’s displayed at the shop of the winning barista until the next competition. It was a fun introduction to some of the people I’d be visiting around the city over the coming days.
Gosschalklaan 7, Amsterdam
+31 (0) 204862106
As one of the first small specialty coffee roasters in Amsterdam, Espresso Fabriek has helped build a foundation for what is now a growing market for lovely coffee bars and cafés across town. They currently have two locations, the first can be found at Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks factory that is now a renovated hot spot for creative and cultural entrepreneurs near Westerpark. The second location is a bit further east of the city in a residential area, which I didn’t visit on this trip (IJburglaan 1489).
Espresso Fabriek can be found behind the main buildings inside a smaller one that once housed gas meters for the nearby factory. It is now an airy two floor loft, with a coffee bar on the ground level and a Giesen roaster with extra seating up above. There’s a 3-group Kees van der Westen lever machine as well as slow bar with V60s and AeroPress filter coffee available. Be sure to try a slice of the Apple cake.
Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat 35, Amsterdam (coffee, wine & cuisine)
+31 (0) 206160770
Hartenstraat 12, Amsterdam (original location)
+31 (0) 206260966
Screaming Beans is another company that has been a staple of the Amsterdam community who serves coffee roasted by Bocca. In the last year they’ve refreshed their original location with a recent remodel and opened a second location that doubles as a well stocked wine bar and restaurant—complete with tasting menu. The wine bar takes the format of a typical coffee shop and throws it out the window. It offers an experience of fine dining and elegance that won’t have customers questioning the cost of a Chemex. Stationed in front of the glowing wine cellar are dueling Kees van der Westen lever machines, an Über boiler and a myriad of different brew methods to choose from.
The original location, which just re-opened last month in a popular shopping district, has a more traditional café menu, with weekend brunch and pastries along with a fully equipped coffee bar up front, which is also outfitted with a Kees van der Westen lever machine. The space is long and narrow with a bright white wall that reflects light into a nook that’s adorned floor to ceiling with lovely reclaimed wood. What impressed me most about both of the Screaming Beans locations is their dedication to table side coffee brewing, which really elevated the experience to new levels.
Beukenplein 14-H, Amsterdam
+31 (0) 207519956
Coffee Bru is located south east of the city and is a bit out of the way for most travelers. However, if you have the time it’s a journey that will take you to parts of Amsterdam you would otherwise probably never visit. This café has only been open for about a year and a half, but it has the feeling of a neighborhood institution. It’s less modern than the other shops around town and much more bohemian. There’s a corner full of toys for the kids, a living plant wall in the back room and a menu offering vegan friendly fare.
The coffee bar is built on a brightly tiled island that feels like you’re in someone’s kitchen. The baristas serve coffee roasted by Bocca on V60s and espresso was pulled on a La Marzocco. I had my best cup of filter coffee here, but the least welcoming service.
KOKO Coffee & Design
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 145, Amsterdam
+ 31 (0) 206264208
KOKO Coffee & Design was a favorite of mine on this trip. The shop has only been open for 6 months, but it already seems to have a stream of regulars taking advantage of the inspiring surroundings and great coffee. The atmosphere, the location, the concept and the coffee where all fantastic and the service by the lovely owners Karlijn and Caroline was warm and welcoming. KOKO is located right in the heart of Amsterdam, with a front door that sits just across the canal from the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum. Its presence is unsuspecting and greatly appreciated in this part of town.
The space is part coffee bar that uses beans roasted by Caffenation in Antwerp, Belgium and part design boutique that sells clothing and other accessories from exclusive designers that can’t be found elsewhere in The Netherlands. There is a variety of vintage furniture for lounging and well-lit tables for working or sitting with groups. All of which share the space harmoniously with racks of designer clothing and rotating art exhibits on the walls. I could have spent all day sitting here reading through old magazine and sipping a cappuccino, which was the best I had on my trip.
Tweede Helmersstraat 96, Amsterdam
+ 31 (0) 611641654
Headfirst Coffee is the newest coffee shop in Amsterdam and will soon be the newest specialty roaster as well. When I visited, they had only been open for a month and were using coffee roasted on a friend’s machine while waiting for their new Giesen roaster to arrive. The owners of Headfirst, share the space with another business called Harvest & Co that sells vintage furniture, home accessories and other lifestyle goods that transform the space into one you’d find on the pages of Kinfolk as well as Barista Magazine.
The space here is warm and inviting and the bar is simple and understated with little to distract from the shiny new La Marzocco Strada, which takes center stage. The filter coffee was brewed with an AeroPress while I was there and the single origin espresso was singing with brightness and balance. The owners will soon be roasting themselves in the back half of the shop which will introduce more customers to the process behind their cup and adding even more to the quickly growing coffee scene in Amsterdam.
There’s so much activity in Amsterdam and the coffee shops have all taken their own unique approaches to the service they provide and the atmosphere they’ve created. If new shops continue to open up at the same rate as they have in the past year, Amsterdam will soon find itself as one of the leading specialty coffee hubs in Europe.
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CNN Travel recently published a story about a unique (and surely controversial) coffee bar in Japan that is either too new or too elusive to have made Oliver Stand’s Tokyo list. Irukaya Coffee Shop (Google translated to Dolphin?) is a windowless, 4 seat, reservation only shop run by Hiroshi Kiyota.
The shop maintains a strict set of rules on its Japanese Excite blog that include:
- Please refrain from lingering on one order—order again within 1 hour.
- No groups larger than 2 people
- No pictures
- No Smoking
- No mobile phones
- No take-away
- No children
- Reservation only during open hours
- Rule breakers are asked to leave
The article details the writer, Nicholas Coldicott‘s visits to Irukaya, including Kitoya’s humble demeanor, the competition-worthy signature beverages on the menu and the extensive list of rare whiskeys that can only be ordered alongside coffee.
Finally, he poured the brew into two cups, alternating so each shared the top, middle and tail of the coffee. He tasted one cup, then served me the other. “Yubisaki,” he said. “Drink it as you would a whisky. It should take around 20 minutes … On paper, the rules look forbidding, but the longer you spend in Irukaya, the more they make sense. It’s not a place you go for a caffeine fix. It’s a sanctuary that happens to serve java. Most of the rules are in place to keep things tranquil. – CNN Travel
While this is sure to ruffle some feathers as being pretentious and off-putting, it sounds like an incredible experience. Where Penny University meets the Soup Nazi, wrapped in Japanese tranquility—sign me up.
Read the full article on CNN Travel
+81 (0) 90 3042 4145
open 2 p.m.-midnight, closed Wednesday
Photos: Julen Esteban-Pretel for CNN
Three months ago, I shared an article from Eater which broke the news of Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski’s plans for the future—a shop of their own in LA that prepares delicious coffee and uses minimal disposables. Kyle, the 2008 US Barista Champion, and Charles, this year’s 2nd place USBC finalist, both left Intelligentsia Coffee this summer and have finally opened doors to their own coffee bar this week.
This new space is somewhat temporary while they look for a permanent home, but it gives them a way to try out ideas with customers while further shaping their concept for the perfect shop. G&B have partnered with Jessica Koslow who runs SQIRL, a confiture kitchen that specializes in deliciously named organic jams made from local produce. The unique partnership is sure to offer some of the best coffee, tea and toast in LA.
The starting line-up of roasters would excite any coffee lover, offering a variety from 49th Parallel, Heart, Intelligentsia and Ritual. For those wanting something cold in the SoCal sun, G&B have also bottled cold brewed coffee and teas to complete their menu.
Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kyle and Charles to develop their brand and it’s exciting to finally see parts of it alive in the world. I look forward to its evolution as all the details are refined and it expands in the future.
Kyle and Charles both have a great vision and talent for service and exceptional coffee experiences, so if you have the opportunity to stop by for a coffee and some toast—I highly suggest it. Follow G&B on twitter for daily offerings and updates.
720 N. Virgil Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
All photos courtesy of Amparo Rios of R.E. Photography. Check out more of her amazing photos of great coffee shops around the world on Flickr.
While visiting Copenhagen, there are several places to have great coffee and try a delightful sampling of Scandinavia’s finest roasters. By walking (or biking) a straight line northwest from the city center, there are opportunities to taste coffee roasted by Solberg & Hansen, Koppi and the Coffee Collective—quite a Nordic trifecta.
Democratic Coffee Bar is one of those stops and has become one of my favorite places to visit while in Copenhagen. Opening last October in the city’s newly renovated Hovedbibliotek, Democratic takes the award for greatest café in a public library and are currently the only shop in Denmark using coffee from Sweden-based Koppi.
The space is separate enough from the library that it feels like its own space, but until their own door is installed, you currently enter through the library’s main door. The front wall opposite the bar, is made of floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space with natural light and provide ample bar space for guests to watch the world pass outside.
The wood bar is elegant and sparse providing a natural bridge between the heavy black shelving at one end and the warm glow of the kitchen’s luminescent orange tile at the other. Each morning, Oliver, the shop’s owner, bakes fresh croissant’s and cookies on site that perfectly compliment the coffee (if they haven’t sold out).
If you’re not interested in sitting at a bar, you can take your coffee into the library’s lounge and sit among a diverse array of library guests enjoying free magazines and internet at designer tables flanked by Eames chairs. For the love of Scandinavia.
Democratic Coffee Bar
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In April I had the pleasure of touring some of Baltimore’s finest coffee establishments, including the city’s newest addition, LaMill—a transplant from LA. This sparkling new shop opened last November by the water’s edge at the Four Seasons in Harbor East.
As I approached, there were plenty of suits passing by as well as an Audi R8 parked out front—environmental features you rarely find in the neighborhoods of most independent coffee shops, but a good sign of the specialty coffee market’s growth.
The open space greets you with a standard bar layout, a pour over stand up front, alongside a custom painted La Marzocco Strada and several Mazzer Robur grinders. I ordered an espresso and a syphon of Guatemala at the bar to share with my companions and was handed a number for my table.
The coffee was delivered to my table by the barista along with a heavy cloth napkin, which added a simple but incredibly valuable detail to the experience. The espresso itself had an earthy Italian profile and was roasted a bit dark for my preference, but the Guatemala from the syphon was sweet, clean and quite enjoyable.
While I was admiring the space, Kris Fulton (manager) came out with a plate of the shop’s other specialty—fresh cut beignets from Michael Mina. Kris admitted to recognizing me and wanted to be sure we didn’t leave without trying them.
The plate was decorated with an assortment of sauces including a meyer lemon curd, Valrhona chocolate and a luscious butterscotch made with Macallan whiskey. They were the perfect compliment to our coffee and may have even outshone it.
Kris was fantastic as he spoke with us about LaMill and the business relationships that brought them to Baltimore to help develop this Four Seasons location. He also talked about their Saturday morning coffee clinics that teach customers about coffee brewing and appreciation in a comfortable atmosphere—pastries included.
The space is connected with two other restaurants (Wit & Wisdom and Pabu) in the sprawling rear lobby of the hotel which blend together nicely while maintaining their individual character. LaMill is clean-lined and modern, while providing a warm atmosphere through it’s unique lighting and dark wood textures.
If you’re visiting Baltimore, you don’t have to be staying in the Four Seasons to stop by this beautiful shop for a treat. There’s outdoor seating in the summer and it’s a great starting point to walk along the harbor and take in one of the city’s nicer views. LaMill is a welcome addition to the Baltimore coffee scene, which currently includes staples Spro and Woodberry Kitchen—and soon to be joined by Artifact Coffee.
LaMill, Four Seasons
200 International Drive
Baltimore, MD 21202
On my 4th day in Colombia, I spent the morning in Bogotá before catching an afternoon flight to the northern coast. Once all of my official business was done for the day, I had time to visit Amor Perfecto, a local specialty roaster who recently opened up a showcase coffee bar and education lab in the city.
Amor Perfecto, owned by Luis Fernando Velez and Jaime Raul Duque, is also the home of Ever Bernal, the current Colombian Barista Champion and was the first coffee company in Colombia to have someone compete in the World Championship. The Amor Perfecto roastery, which is just a few blocks from the café, is also home to Colombia’s first Loring SmartRoast.
The shop only features coffee grown in Colombia, but it offers a rotating selection from regions around the country. The first coffee I had was an AeroPress of the Boyacá, which is a fairly unknown coffee growing region just a few hours northeast of Bogotá. It has a very spicy chocolate taste profile that I don’t normally prefer, but it was really unique compared with the other coffees I’d been drinking all week.
I sat down with Luis and Jaime who told me about all the classes they provide to customers, from basic cupping to learning how to roast their own batch of coffee. Their goal is to provide an environment and experience where someone can come have a nice cup of coffee and relax, or if they choose learn everything they want about the process.
Along with their selection of coffee and a small assortment of baked goods, Amor Perfecto also offers single malt whiskey pairings with their coffee—an incredible dream come true. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stay and experience the pairing, but I look forward to doing so in the future. Unique pairings like this are something I’d really like to see and experience more of in the world of coffee.
The coffee shop and lab are on the ground floor of an old two-story home that’s been renovated to contrast a history of textures, modern lines and delicate woods. The modern furniture is illuminated by the natural light that washes through the front windows, the enclosed courtyard and translucent ceiling above the lab.
Upstairs are several rooms that include a dedicated training lab and classroom for teaching employees and friends in the industry. Everything about Amor Perfecto is considered and focused on growing the knowledge and capabilities of the baristas, roasters and interested customers engaged with the company.
If you happen to live in Bogotá or are visting Colombia for an extended time and need any kind of coffee gear, this shop is probably your best bet. Along with their coffee bar and coffee roasting duties, they are Colombia’s official distributors of AeroPress, Bodum and Nuova Simonelli espresso machines.
Amor Perfecto is a great example of how passion for coffee goes far beyond serving it. Because of their passion, the customers and baristas in Colombia will benefit greatly from the energy and quality brought to the city. Since the World Barista Championships took place in Bogotá last year, there has been a new found interest in discovering what coffee can be to Colombia besides just an export. It was great to meet the people at Amor Perfecto who are helping lead the way.
Cra 5 No. 70ª-60
Last week I had the pleasure of walking through the doors of Handsome Coffee Roasters to finally congratulate two of the three Handsome boys in person. Almost ten months to the day since first announcing Handsome Coffee, Tyler, Chris and Michael opened their doors to an eager public who have been teased non-stop for the past year.
The attention they’ve received is unprecedented, heavily driven by Twitter and blogs (guilty), and the endless media coverage has set the bar very high. Every step of their journey has been watched with excitement, curiosity, and envy. They’ve used several creative tactics to keep the conversation about them alive as they built their shop—making it seem like the chance to visit were always just around the corner.
One of these strategies was the “First Forty” club, which offered a social media savvy audience to be among the first to sample test roasts each month before they began selling their coffee to the public. This made sure there was a continuous buzz regarding a product that no one else could even buy. It garnered interest and bought time while everything else was being put into place—not only in LA, but also New York.
The Handsome coffee bar and roastery sits on the corner of Mateo and Willow Street, surrounded by warehouses in the Arts District of Los Angeles. It’s only about a mile from Union Station, but I doubt I could have found it without a GPS. When I arrived, there was a line out the door and several people enjoying the sunshine out front.
I showed up with a van of Coffee Common baristas, and we were greeted at the door by Tyler and Chris with welcoming hugs, coffee and a tour of their new home.
I ordered an espresso and a cup of their new Rwanda (Abakundakawa)—which to my surprise was only available as a batch brew, which Tyler proudly defended as a great, consistent way to serve it. To be honest, if no one had told me, I wouldn’t have have been able to tell. It was a damn good cup of coffee. The espresso was bright, but balanced with a creamy finish, pulled on a La Marzocco Linea.
As my filter coffee cooled, I wandered around the space and talked with Chris and Anne about his new roasting “theater” which had a fair number of people passing through and watching him work through the windows.
As I walked around, the details of the shop are really quite remarkable. From the floor to (high) ceiling subway tiles, to the copper drop awning that mirrors the copper wrapped bar, and the hallway of etched wooden tiles with a texture so smooth you just want to run your hand across them all the way to the restrooms (where you hopefully wash them).
There are several types of seating to accomodate various types of customers—around the bar, at the window, outside, communally in the back, or perched against the glass wall watching the roaster in action. But where ever you are in the space, the baristas and the bar remain front and center of the experience.
Even though the location seems a bit out of the way (everything in LA seems that way to me) the shop remained busy throughout my visit—if business stays that way, there should be no problem keeping on the lights. As the coffee scene in Los Angeles continues to grow, Handsome has placed itself high on the list of must visit shops from the day they opened their doors, no matter where it’s located.
As the company grows along with the owners, I look forward to seeing and tasting their progress. I’d also love to eventually see Handsome/farmer relationships and more unique coffees coming from them, rather than green importers. There’s a lot of light shining on them and I would love to see some of it illuminate issues regarding coffee buying and quality—but so far none of that seems to be a part of their story.
While some may tire of hearing about Handsome, I can only think of the new people in LA their media circus will help introduce to better coffee, which ultimately helps everyone trying to do the same.
I’m glad I was able to stop by Handsome with good friends in tow. Thanks to Tyler and Chris for showing us around and I wish Mike could have been there as well. Hopefully he heals up quick and gets back behind that lovely bar soon enough.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
582 Mateo Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Oliver Strand published a great new article on Ristretto, his column for the New York Times, about his recent travels to Japan. Strand shares a bit about the history of Japanese coffee shops, called kissaten, and reveals where you can experience the next generation of coffee on your next trip to Tokyo—map included.
When I tell people that I went to Tokyo to check out the coffee, I get two reactions. One is bewilderment — as if I went to Denver for the surfing. The other is fascination: those who pay attention to coffee know that Japan is the world’s third-largest importer (after the United States and Germany), with obsessive buyers who regularly land the winning bids at Cup of Excellence auctions, and that it produces the coffee gear everybody wants. –Oliver Strand
Full article and interactive map at New York Times.
[ Photo: Oliver Strand]
I’ve talked about my visit to The Coffee Collective’s original shop at Jægersborggade in the past, and I recently used one of their coffees to compete in the World AeroPress Championship in Milan. So it’s fair to say I’m a big fan of what they’re doing.
While I was in Copenhagen picking up my competition coffee, I also stopped by their newest location at Torvhallerne, a public market near the city center. Oliver Strand was one of the first to write about visiting the new space, and I was excited to see it myself.
This location consists of a really long bar in the back corner of a modern glass pavilion. It’s surrounded by other vendors selling chocolates, baked goods and spices that will more than inspire your appetite.
A steady line begins at one end of the bar, where orders are placed, that makes its way down the line passed the lovely (world exclusive) Spirit espresso machine. If filter coffee were ordered, you continue on to the V60 bar where there’s an unobscured view of each coffee brewed by the cup.
A large, full-color map of the world illuminates the back wall and serves as a colorful backdrop for the baristas working methodically to serve the 700 to 1000 cups that can be ordered on a given day. The map is punctuated with photos from the farms where coffees have been sourced, adding a visual sense of scale to the process.
The new shop has a completely different feel than the original, but the coffee is just as good. So depending on your mood and the kind of atmosphere you’re looking for—you now have a choice.
The Coffee Collective
Vendersgade 6D, Copenhagen
Almost a year ago, to the day, I visited Tim Wendelboe in Oslo for the first time. The Kenya, Mugaga I had on that trip is still one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. While there was no Mugaga this time, there were two other kenyalicious coffees, Tekangu and Ndumberi, and lots of good company.
I finally met “the Tim” briefly as he was leaving for the Nordic Barista Cup and spent the following morning with “the other Tim” while he was roasting some fresh coffee. Chris Owens from Handsome Coffee was also in town, who I hadn’t seen since the USBC in Houston, so I caught up on Handsome progress while sampling the menu with him.
If you find yourself in Oslo, Tim Wendelboe should be number one on your list of coffee shops to visit. Until then, brew another cup and enjoy some more photos.