I didn’t have very long to explore Amsterdam’s speciality coffee scene when I visited the city for the World of Coffee in June, but I noticed that the majority of places are outside of the centre, often to the south or west. In contrast, Black Gold, on a quiet, residential street, is just a short walk east of the red light district, making it one of the more easily-accessible speciality coffee shops for those on a more traditional tourist itinerary.
Black Gold is both a coffee shop and vinyl record shop, part of a small band of such establishments around the world. The front is given over the vinyl, although there is some seating and you are welcome to sit there with your coffee. Alternatively, there are a few more seats in the spacious rear of the shop. When it comes to coffee, Black Gold uses local roasters White Label Coffee, with a single-origin on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest roaster. There are also three single-origins on filter through V60, Aeropress, cafetiere and batch-brew, with the same single-origin guest espresso also available as one of the filter options, an innovation which only started in June.
This time last week I was in Amsterdam for the World of Coffee, the Specialty Coffee Association’s annual European jamboree. If you’ve never been to World of Coffee, think London Coffee Festival, but with a more relaxed feel. London Coffee Festival on decaf perhaps? Although general consumers are welcome, it is more of a trade event, which contributes to the relaxed atmosphere.
All the usual (big) names are there when it comes to coffee equipment, in a large, spacious main hall dominated by big stands. There’s a dedicated Roasters Village, home to the small (and not so small) speciality roasters. The stands are much smaller and closer together, which gives it a London Coffee Festival-like atmosphere, but without the annoyingly loud music. World of Coffee is also home to one or two of the world coffee championships, this year hosting the World Barista Championships.
I’ve not been very good at attending World of Coffee, first visiting two years ago in Dublin. I really enjoyed it though and had every intention of going to last year’s event in Budapest, but work sent me to Vietnam instead. I know, it’s a hard life. However, this year I was free and determined to go…
Monks Coffee Roasters is part of Amsterdam’s multi-cultural coffee scene. The owner, Patrick, is a lovely Irishman who opened Monks in 2016 after 26 years in Melbourne, bringing with him a very Australian coffee and brunch concept, Monks serving a combined breakfast and lunch menu until 2:30 in the afternoon, backed up by copious quantities of cake.
When it comes to coffee, the name Monks Coffee Roasters is more aspirational than current reality, with the coffee toll-roasted by Bocca, another renowned name in Amsterdam speciality coffee. However, Patrick has a roaster on order and will soon be producing his own beans, supplemented by various guest roasters, including a guest espresso and multiple options on filter, with Monks offering V60, Kalita Wave, Aeropress, Chemex and French Press. You can have any bean via any method, but the staff have a default method for each bean.
Monks has a modest store-front, but this hides a large interior which goes a long way back, offering multiple seating options from window-bars at the front to a large, communal table at the back. There’s even a shaded garden/yard at the back, but sadly objections from the neighbours mean you can’t have your coffee out there.
Amsterdam has an enviable collection of well-renowned coffee shop/roasters, but none came more highly recommended to me than White Label Coffee, out in West Amsterdam. So when I found myself in the neighbourhood, on my first day in the city after World of Coffee, naturally I had to go.
White Label has been going for four years from the same spot on Jan Evertsenstraat, although roasting now takes places in a dedicated facility a few doors away. There is a 6kg Giesen roaster at the back of the store, but this is only used on Mondays to roast the filter coffee. For the rest of the time, White Label Coffee is just a regular coffee shop, with perhaps the weirdest shape I’ve ever seen…
When it comes to coffee, White Label Coffee roasts numerous single-origins, all of which are for sale in the shop. When it comes to serving coffee, any of the filter roasts are available as a V60, with one selected each day for batch brew. Meanwhile, White Label Coffee offers two choices on espresso, putting on four kg at a time and changing it when it’s gone, which often means more than once a day!
Badger & Dodo is a curious beast, and not just for its name. Starting life as a roastery in Cork in 2008, Badger & Dodo supplies coffee shops across Ireland. Except for the west coast. So, to plug the gap, in October 2014 Badger & Dodo opened its own café in Galway. As you do.
Occupying the corner of a modern, glass-walled building, Badger & Dodo is a bright and awkward-shaped spot. Just around the corner from the train station, bus station and coach station, there really is no excuse not to visit if you arrive in Galway by public transport (unless you arrive in late afternoon, when Badger & Dodo is closed). If, like I was, you leave by public transport, be sure to allow an hour or two before your train/bus/coach to sample the full coffee menu. Although maybe that’s just me…
Badger & Dodo serves a single-origin on espresso (which changes every five/six weeks or so) and another on filter through V60/Aeropress/Chemex (which changes every week or so). You can also buy a large range of single-origin beans. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a wide selection of handmade sandwiches/toasties, plus an excellent-looking range of pastries and cakes.
Coffeewerk + Press was the one place that practically everyone, including my friends in Galway, recommended that I visit. Be warned though, it’s not your typical coffee shop. Spread over three floors of a narrow building, there’s seating outside in the form of three two-person tables, while inside, the counter occupies the back of the ground floor, with the seating spread out over the upper two floors. The first of these is a design store, with benches along the wall and a smattering of chairs, while right at the top is an art gallery, with a handful of chairs.
When it comes to coffee, don’t visit Coffeewerk + Press expecting to sample the best of Irish roasters. Coffeewerk’s unapologetically international, with a house-blend & decaf on espresso from Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective and single-origin pour-overs from roasters across Europe and beyond (including Japan and the USA). You can also buy the beans. If you’re hungry, there is a small, but excellent, selection of cake and chocolate. The main downside is that Coffeewerk only uses takeaway cups, even if you’re sitting in, so be prepared to bring your own (this is due to licencing problems rather than any active decision from Coffeewerk).
My final instalment from this summer’s trip to Copenhagen is perhaps its most famous name in coffee, the Coffee Collective. Known across Europe for the standard of its roasting, the Coffee Collective also has three coffee shops: the original, out to the west of the centre, the second, in the nearby roastery, and this, its third, right in the heart of the city at Torvehallerne, once again demonstrating that speciality coffee can thrive in the mainstream if done properly.
Torvehallerne is a food and produce market, which reminds me of Boston’s Public Market, where George Howell is doing a similar thing. The Coffee Collective occupies a long counter at the end of the eastern of Torvehallerne’s twin halls. There’s plenty of space, and a limited amount of seating in the shape of window-bars, although you can also take your coffee and make use of any of the public seating areas.
Talking of the coffee, it’s what you come here for. There’s a choice of a blend, single-origin or decaf through the Kees van der Westen espresso machine, or you can have one of three single-origins as a Kalita Wave pour-over, with a fourth on bulk-brew if you’re in a hurry.
There’s something about (speciality) coffee and books in Copenhagen. First there was the latest addition, Prolog Coffee Bar, a café and magazine shop, plus old hands, Forloren Espresso, replete with magazines. And there’s today’s Coffee Spot, Democratic Coffee, sharing its space with the city’s central library. You can’t get more books than that! You can sit in the coffee bar itself, which is long and thin, but which can be quite noisy, or decamp to the library, where there’s a choice of tables and comfy armchairs in the windows.
Everything in Democratic is made from scratch in the kitchen behind the counter, including the bread and pastries. Everything except the coffee that is, which is roasted off-site on a shared roaster, Democratic roasting two or three times a month. There are two single-origins on espresso, one for black coffee, one for milk, plus two more on filter, one available as a hand-poured V60, the other on bulk-brew.
The coffee changes every two-three months, Democratic buying a 700kg pallet with three/four different green beans. Once they’re gone, Democratic moves onto the next set of beans. Democratic doesn’t have different roast profiles for espresso/filter, regularly swapping which bean is on which method.
Like Lisbon’s branch of the Copenhagen Coffee Lab, which I’d visited previously in the day, Fábrica Coffee Roasters is not a home-grown affair, but it feels more Portuguese. Long, thin and very basement-like, it has a lot in common with a Portuguese café bar, although with its comfortable sofas, upcycled furniture, hand-made counter and lights encased in cages, it wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch!
At the heart of Fábrica is the coffee roasting operation, which is tucked away beyond the counter at the very back of the store in a space that doubles as a retail area. Here the very shiny 5kg Probatone roasts all of Fábrica’s coffee, which you can also buy to take home. Like the Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Fábrica has an impressive output, with three options on espresso and another three on filter, which can be had as an Aeropress or Kalita for one, while the V60 and Chemex options come either for one or two.
There’s a decent menu, all the food prepared on-site in the kitchen to the left of the counter, plus lots of cake. This being Portugal, it’s not just coffee, of course, with beer and wine also making an appearance.
Copenhagen has a small, but extremely high-standard speciality coffee scene. One of the relatively old hands is Forloren Espresso, which stands out partly because it doesn’t, like so many others in the Danish capital, roast its own beans. Instead it serves single-origin espresso and pour-overs through the Kalita Wave, using the UK’s Has Bean on espresso and filter, with Denmark’s La Cabra providing some of the filter options. Forloren also brings in an occasional guest roaster.
There are two options on espresso, three on filter. Each bean is priced differently and the options change every week or so. The main espresso option is designed for milk, with the second espresso usually served on its own or in cortados. There’s also a choice of tea, while a small snack menu offers breakfast and lunch options, plus there’s cake and pastries.
Although just a few steps away from Copenhagen’s tourist-central at the top of the Nyhavn Canal, and on the well-trodden route to the magnificent Frederiks Kirke, Forloren Espresso is surprisingly off the beaten track. A good sign that it doesn’t rely on the tourist trade is that it shuts at four o’clock every day and doesn’t open at all on Sundays.