#10 – Coffee

Ten Things to Love about Dutch Towns

#10 – Coffee

Cappuccino at Kaldi's, Haagsche Bluf, The Hague

Oh yes, we hear you thinking already. What’s so Dutch about coffee? And why is this relevant to a photo blog about Dutch towns?

Well, look at that cappuccino image, and get yourself in the mood. Take a sip of strong, flavoursome coffee in the company of good people. The quality of the coffee is important to the Dutch drinking coffee. Now, that’s why we like it. In the Netherlands, we socialize over good coffee. You want to get to know a Dutch person better? Simply invite us over for a cup of coffee!

What to consider after you’ve invited a Dutch guest over for coffee to your place? First of all, keep in mind coffee is traditionally consumed late morning and after diner. When serving regular coffee, make sure you have evaporated milk on the side. Regular milk in regular coffee is a faux pas, unless you offer your Dutch guest a koffie verkeerd (wrong coffee). That’s 2 parts heated milk for 1 part coffee.  Also, there must be cookies. Stroopwafels (caramel waffles) or speculaas (spiced cookies) will do fine. Put them in a cookie tin (Dutch equivalent of the cookie jar) and place the closed tin on the table, there should only be one cookie for each round of coffee.

So much for our habits, now for our reputation. For some reason, Dutch people think they have a huge, global reputation for drinking coffee. Well, we don’t know about the huge and global, but would you know that the claim is actually true? After a little research for this post, we found that Dutch people drink more coffee than any other nationality on the planet, second only to the Scandinavians! The Royal Dutch Society for Coffee and Tea calculated that in 1970 the Dutch consumed 2.6 cups of coffee per day. In 2009, this increased to 3.3 cups per day (with a peak of 3.6 cups in the mid-nineties)! As opposed to 2.4 cups of tea per day…

Douwe Egberts, a famous coffee brand in the Netherlands. Store in Haarlem

A Short, Dutch History of Coffee

For the Dutch, the history of coffee started in 1614. Several ships of the Dutch East India Company sailed into the harbour of Al Mukha, aka Mocha, aka Mocca,  in Yemen. They sailed out again, carrying coffee plants on their onward journey to Indonesia. At the time, there was no market for coffee in Europe, but the Dutch traders knew there was one in South and East Asia and with their treasure from Yemen, they set up coffee plantations on Java. In Europe, coffee remained expensive and scarce. This changed after the 1750s. Coffee was cheaper, in the Netherlands coffee houses opened their doors and coffee quickly became national drink #1. Astonishingly, it has remained in top spot for 262 years!

Coffee house serving delicious breakfast, lunch and high tea in Haarlem called Hartig & Zoet (Savoury & Sweet)

Coffee Town

Coffee is definitely a thing to love about Dutch towns. If you’re buying, don’t go to the supermarkets, but seek out the small, cozy shops that specialize in selling coffee. Find Simon Lévelt or Kaldi, or shops like De Eenhorn in Kampen and make sure you can use it in your Nespresso or expensive Italian coffee machine at home. If you’re going out for drinks, check out Bagels & Beans, especially the one in Leiden (Maarsmansteeg) makes a mean cappuccino with a delicious thick milk foam. Then there’s Coffee Star with their retro living room style. Kaldi also serves coffee and muffins in their shops. The Dutch do not have a need for Starbucks. We like to get strong and flavoursome coffee in a few, short and clear sentences. It’s unthinkable the Dutch ordering what we consider a poor cup of coffee anyway, with theatrical monologue skills:  low-fat milk, five shots of hazelnut syrup, no cream, one shot of warm water, o yeah, and make it a double decaf.

For yours truly, a coffee shop is an essential ingredient for any town. If we can’t start our weekend of photography with a roll and coffee, well, then our weekend hasn’t really started yet. Come rain or shine, the end of the world is most definitely near when there’s no coffee-house in sight! Either we’ll take it with a drop of brandy to warm us up in winter, or we’ll drink iced coffee in the summer on the terrace. That’s another typical Dutch sighting: terrasjes. These are small or large terraces in front of coffee shops, restaurants and pubs where people will drink and eat all night long. Hmm, we feel a topic for a new post coming on…

For this post’s finale, we give you our favourites:

Bjorn’s Fav’s Ingrid’s Fav’s
1. Cappuccino 1. Regular coffee with Baileys
2. Regular, Dutch style coffee 2. Cappuccino
3. Koffie Verkeerd 3. Turkish coffee

This photo blog exists because of coffee. 

Colourful chairs for a terrace, Cafe de Oude Mol, The Hague.

A few sources used here:

http://www.vocsite.nl  – about the Dutch East India Company, in Dutch
http://www.knvkt.nl – Royal Dutch Society for Coffee and Tea
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee – general Wiki info