ROTTERDAM, Dec 4 — In recent years, the Third Wave Coffee scene in the Netherlands has become increasingly vibrant. Amsterdam is unmistakably the epicentre of this “bean scene.” Yet if this was limited to the capital, Dutch coffee as a whole would still be largely the domain of dark roast, bold-flavoured espressos.
Fortunately this is not the case as lovers of specialty coffee can find excellent cuppas throughout the land of tulips, from the cargo port of Rotterdam to the medieval city of Utrecht. Many of these coffee bars are found in university towns, such as Groningen and Leiden, where the youthful student population are the first to embrace flat whites and single origin beans.
Hopper Coffee, Rotterdam
Rotterdam feels as lively as Amsterdam albeit with fewer tourists. The pace is more laid-back, making it a great city to have coffee. At Schiedamse Vest 146, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts from Hopper Coffee.
Founded by Karel Rietveld, this café has very high ceilings and plenty of natural light for taking pictures. The food is homemade and the sourdough bread freshly baked; check out the open kitchen that mirrors the open, friendly nature of the staff.
Hopper Coffee roasts their own beans and the quality shows. Take a sip of your coffee and look out through the large windows at the world passing by. A great place for daydreaming, with a good cuppa or two as the perfect inspiration.
Black & Bloom, Groningen
Groningen is a northern university town, right at the end of the railway line from Amsterdam. Little surprise then that the only specialty coffee bar here — Black & Bloom — is also a haven for young people from around the world. They gather at the communal table, chattering in myriad languages. You’d think you were in London or Bangkok, by the sheer concentration of different nationalities.
Founded in 2012 by Gerben Engelkes, Black & Bloom offers a house blend called BlackJack and various filter coffees. The beans used in the blend and for the filter coffees never stay the same and depend on what are in season.
Black & Bloom also roasts their own coffees, using a 6kilogrammes-capacity Giesen W6A roaster, as well as sourcing beans from Caffenation. There’s bound to be a coffee that’s just right for your palate; just ask the baristas for their recommendation!
Borgman & Borgman, Leiden
Another university town, Leiden has a gentle, bucolic landscape with pleasant-looking buildings. Folks here love literature; everyone seems to be reading a book or two. And what better place to enjoy a read than in a cosy café?
Located in downtown Leiden, Borgman & Borgman is a father-and-son run coffee bar and roastery. Rien and Tom Borgman (the senior and junior Borgmans, respectively) roast their own coffee beans, an unusual luxury in a small town. Beyond the typical espresso-based coffees, you can order a hand-brewed coffee, made with either Aeropress or Chemex. There are even cold brews.
Borgman & Borgman has a casual, relaxing atmosphere; nothing fancy in terms of the décor but simply decorated, clean and lived-in. This is a real space for real people. Coffee drinkers nurse their cups and enjoy their breakfast — a sandwich or toastie or something sweet like their biscotti-like caramel-ginger crunchie.
Koffie & Ik, Utrecht
Koffie & Ik (which means “Coffee & I” in Dutch) is a bright, sunlit corner coffee shop. Wooden chairs and tables line up outside for when the weather is fine; inside, the well-worn pinewood floor lends some texture and contrast against white walls adorned sporadically with colourful art.
Opened by Robbie van Luijn, Koffie & Ik has a bit of a little United Nations ambience. This is partly due to the neighbourhood the café is located in: Lombok, named after an island in former Dutch colony Indonesia, has a colourful and diverse populace.
For sipping, expect specialty coffee (both espresso and filter) and fine loose leaf teas. If you’re hungry, try some of Koffie & Ik’s homemade cakes and open-faced sandwiches. The most popular of the latter, featuring squares of goat cheese and walnuts drizzled with honey, makes for a light but satisfying lunch.
Aloha Bar, Rotterdam
How many cafés do you know are located in a swimming pool?
While not exactly floating on water, Rotterdam’s Aloha Bar is set up in an abandoned water theme park. The former Tropicana water park was one of the derelict, post-80s buildings that stayed vacant till it was converted into this specialty coffee hub — with shiny tiles, large black parasols and white deck chairs.
Inside, beans are freshly roasted on a Giesen roaster. Espresso-based beverages are made using a Mirage Duette Classic machine by world-renowned Kees van der Westen. Stencilled walls and mix-and-match chairs in rainbow colours add to the eclectic décor. Hanging plants add an element of green, helping to recreate a make-believe tropical paradise.
Chill out on the terrace lounge and imagine it’s an eternal summer while sipping your cuppa. After all, how often can you claim to drink coffee made from beans roasted inside a former water park?
Schiedamse Vest 146, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open Mon-Fri 8:30am–6pm; Sat 10:30am–6pm; Sun closed
Black & Bloom
Oude Kijk in Het Jatstraat 32, 9712 EK Groningen, Netherlands
Open Mon-Fri 8:30am-6pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 11am-5pm
Borgman & Borgman
Nieuwe Rijn 41, 2312 JG Leiden, The Netherlands
Open Mon 9am-5pm; Tue-Sat 8am-6pm; Sun 10:30am-5pm
Koffie & Ik
Vleutenseweg 169, 3532 HC Utrecht, Netherlands
Open Mon-Fri 8am–5pm; Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 10am-5pm
Maasboulevard 100, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open Thu 12pm-12am; Fri & Sat 12pm-1am; Sun & Mon 12pm-11pm; Tue & Wed closed