Golden rule: Coffee is the deal breaker

[dropcap size=small]Q[/dropcap]uick, think on your feet, how many coffees does it take to give you the jitters? I lasted four whole brews at The Amsterdam Coffee Festival before the buzz set in and I came away with one insight, the Dutch are crazy about coffee.
The crème de la crème of the coffee world turned up on Sunday, in artistically expressive get-up, all to taste and critique the best coffee blends of the moment. Never have I heard such a rich vocabulary of descriptive nuances cobbled together by a Dutch person as when they describe their coffee.

I heard people snort in derision at coffee that they considered below par. The festival bore testament to the coffee cult movement. This silky liquid is so revered that it is paired with art, fashion, mobility, colour, light and desire.
Couples ogled one another in the festival arena while sipping their blends and daydreamers lounged against connoisseur coffee trucks. The Westergasfabriek basked in the fluorescence and glory of the peoples’ love of coffee.
It took me back to when I met my love and had my first taste of coffee snobbery…

An ode to a coffee snob

My own journey with coffee and the Dutch obsession with it began in 2006 when I met an exchange journalist from the Netherlands on the newsroom floor of the Cape Times. Rather brazenly he proceeded to flirt with me right there in the office and invited me for coffee. Little did I know that this bona fide coffee snob would become my husband.
In the early days I could never serve him a cup of coffee that was good enough. At home we drank tea with milk and honey and when the fancy took us we drank French pressed ground Douwe Egberts coffee. Fairly good we thought. Man were we in for a shock as the Dutch man on our couch pulled the ugliest expressions at each cup of coffee we presented.
Eventually he had tracked down the best coffee shop in all of Cape Town, a quaint barista outfit called Origins in Green Point and we had to mosey on all the way there to get him a cup of coffee he deemed worthy.
But he married me so he was clearly impressed by my efforts to appease his coffee habits. Needless to say the Amsterdam Coffee Festival made all the nostalgia come flooding back.

Friendly tip for fellow expats in qualms

Just a neighbourly word of warning – never give a Dutch business associate, friend, foe or acquaintance a bad cup of coffee. Do not underestimate the importance of premium coffee. These people put much value on coffee and they’ll talk about a good cup for years. You want proof, this coffee culture piece will do the trick.

With great beans comes great responsibility

Because coffee is so beloved by the Dutch it has the power to make them pay attention and listen. And they are willing to go to great lengths to ensure all the players in the coffee industry are looked after so there was a lot of talk about saving the planet and social responsibility, which made us love them even more.
My quirkiest discovery was The Coffee Art Project! They had about 20 art pieces on display at the festival, of which the proceeds go to Project Waterfall which ensures that coffee growing communities across the world get access to clean water. I love the concept and the passion and belief in the initiative is visible but the art itself blew me away.
The artists drew parallels between coffee, space and time. They wove the essence of coffee into the social fabric of modern lifestyles and I couldn’t get enough. The art only popped more by being surrounded with exhibitions of artistic coffee holders and fruity flavoured chocolate.
Mind you there was also a lot of talk about dancing with coffee and waltzing with a coffee cup. The Dutch are so nuts for this stuff that they wax lyrical like a school boy in love. Their passion for coffee is just so infectious.

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Inga Strydom
I am a South African journalist with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and pushing the envelope on how people relate to the environment. I have seen some hectic things and I have heard my fair share of bizarre accounts. Follow me on Twitter where I go by my Dutch name:


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