Category Archives: Amsterdam

Coffee in Amsterdam Part: 11

A tiny place bang in the middle of central Amsterdam, I end up here a lot when book-browsing amongst all the international book stores by Het Spui. Consistent with high quality coffee and great service I can always trust the guys and girls behind the machines at Coffee Company: Het Spui. It is found behind Singel, or just off the big touristy Kalverstraat. If anyone is touristing in Amsterdam this place is impossible to miss, though small.


This review is, in a way, an exception from my rule to not review, or even frequent, big coffee chains like Starbucks, Nero or Coffee Company. But this exception is justified by Coffee Company being miles better than any other chain of coffee places I have ever been to. And I’ve been to a few, as the regular reader will know. It is important to remember that this franchise can vary enormously in quality and service between two coffee places owned by Coffee Company but situated on the same street. A good example is the place closest to work, Coffee Company: Waterlooplein, which serves great coffee but the earlier mentioned confusion between an espresso macchiato and a cortado is rife here. The service is also, in general, appalling and so slow I have more than once walked off. This since, in my view, waiting in a queue of four people it should not take over ten minutes to be served. But it does if the staff stand talking to each other behind the till instead of actually serving customers doing the job they’re supposed to. This does not happen at Coffee Company: Het Spui, but it does at the one at Waterlooplein. A lot.

My short macchiato has always been top notch here at CC Het Spui. This is a really small place, just some bar stool seating by the window overlooking the square, so if you want a sit down coffee you have to stick to the summer months when they have a small outside seating area. But even here it is very crammed, so I would opt for the take-away alternative if you’re not there in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. Or possibly Sunday. Then it might be possible to sit down for your coffee.

Due to its central location close to the main tourist streets it is one of the best places to pick up your coffee on-the-go, so aim for this little anonymous looking place when you’re close to Het Spui next time. I always do.

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Filed under Amsterdam, Barista, Coffe Houses, Coffee, Coffee Company Het Spui

Coffee in Amsterdam Part: 10

A brilliant little place that epitomises European city cool, you find SOK Espressobar on Hartenstraat 34. A pop-up espresso bar open for only six months until sometime in the late summer/early autumn (for now) that serves brilliant slow drip, espresso and what-have-you by some of the Netherlands best baristas. Not to mention it is close to another favourite of mine, Screaming Beans, so you can actually have some of the best coffee in Amsterdam in the same street, just walking between the two establishments enjoying wonderful shots of C8H10N4O2.

I had my normal short macchiato and it was just like I expected from a place like this; perfect aroma, smooth espresso and a good milk foam. This is, apparently, also one of the rare places in Amsterdam where they know how to froth the milk perfectly. Molto bene signori, grazie! And more importantly, my macchiato didn’t turn out like a cortado with equal parts espresso and milk foam as has happened at a few places recently. A macchiato is a macchiato and a cortado is a cortado. Basta cosí. Get it right guys. Though, I need to stress, SOK Espressobar is not guilty of this mix-up. They know exactly what they are doing.


This place is so small and tiny sitting inside is virtually impossible. But that’s not what they seem to aim for. You get your coffee and then sit outside by the canal like I did. I love that about Amsterdam, the sitting on the canal-side enjoying the sun, and for that SOK Espressobar is ideally situated just by Keizersgracht.

A small chalk note on the bar saying “Meet Mrs. Synesso” and an arrow to the coffee machine made me smile too. Humour and good coffee seem to be a good, contemporary mixture.

So, go there and try out SOK Espressobar’s coffee if you’re in Amsterdam visiting in the late summer. They close in just a few weeks, so hurry up!

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Filed under Amsterdam, Barista, Coffee, SOK Espressobar Amsterdam

Contrasts

Sitting in the summer house this morning, reading the local morning paper, I came across a short column asking the question “why do we choose to live in the big cities when most of us confess to wanting to live in the country side, taking it easy not working as hard as we do?” An adequate question when millions of Europeans escape the drudge of fast city life, changing the suit and tie for worn jeans and leisure shirts or a relaxed piqué. Hours will be spent by beaches, strolls in forests and hikes across mountains. People will escape to summer houses all over the world. So why do we restrict this leisurely time to just a few weeks per year? Can’t we do more of it? Would that really kill us, you know, to take a few hours off every week and spend some down time in the country side doing nothing and spend quality time with family and friends. I don’t think so. It would change us, yes, but more in the  positive sense of the word.

Looking out over the slow, gently rolling sea I can’t imagine not being here every summer. But how wonderful it would be to be able to see this every morning. To be able to take a quick dip in the big, salty blue in November would be a dream. Being able to sit here writing, looking out over the granite rocks formed millions of years ago and finally shaped more than ten-thousand years ago when the ice covering Europe withdrew after its grip on our continent. But have I given up my time and said no to my jobs in London, Amsterdam or wherever I happen to be asked to go? No. I need the money. Or so I tell myself. I also love my job, and the life I have chosen to lead, but perhaps I should re-think it all. Not just tell everyone else to do so. Living close to the sea, or in the country side with a flat in the city would be my dream existence.

But it’s not the easiest for a careerist, a focused late-twenties ambitious someone. We all have goals in life, but do we have to reach them so fast? We seem to be forced to think we are not good at what we are doing if we haven’t achieved the dream with a comet like career, a fast life style, thousands of air-miles and a posh city flat before we hit the big three-o. Why is that? Can’t we give it some more time, try enjoying it more while we’re at it?
It is so easy to loose focus and loose our passion for what we initially wanted to achieve with our lives. The speed of the 21st century society rocketing past our ears is so deafening at times there’s no surprise we might wake up one day and wonder “eh…what happened?” When that happens, it a sure sign to have a serious think. Go out in the nature, sit on the cliffs looking out over the sea, find a calm, peaceful place in the country side and try listening to yourself. In the big cities, that’s virtually impossible.

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Filed under Amsterdam, City Life VS. Country Side Lull, London, Paris, Stressful City Life, Sweden

Coffee in Amsterdam Part: 9

In November 2010 this coffee house, De Koffie Salon on Utrechtsestraat 130, was voted “Best coffee in Amsterdam” by Time Out Amsterdam Magazine. Nice for them, but I don’t agree. It’s not that it is not a nice place, cause it realy is. Great feel, relaxed, chilled out but not overly Americanized cum brushed steel and concret á la New York interior that’s now so popular, homey feeling with the big sofas on the first floor and the buzzing, great table in the middle of each floor for lap-top users. Brilliant idea. But the coffee? It was pretty bland. And that’s why I came there in the first place.

Since my first espresso macchiato was a dissapointment the other week, I decided to go again a few days later to see if it might just have been bad luck from the barista’s side. But that wasn’t the case here. The second time I went the macchiato was still bland, a bit watery and with no pull in the taste. Is the settings on the machine wrong perhaps? Need to have the bar pressure set according to how the coffee is ground? Or is it just that they have had bad luck with the last few batches of coffee beans from Buscaglione, the italian roaster. Whatever it is, it needs to be fixed.
The froth on my first macchiato was very good (it sais in my notes) but the last time it was too hard, almost like an unbaked meringue before it hits the oven. I also had a normal black coffee to see if that was any better. And it was. They might be using these hellishly popular pods (the Wrath of the Gods for coffee connoisseurs, in my view) which are so loved here in the Netherlands, but it was still not bad at all. Not as clean in taste as it would have been had it been a proper pour over, but I shan’t be too picky.

What I want to applaude De Koffie Salon for is their effort to keep a consistently high level concerning their pastries, sandwiches and sweet buns. I have had different things every time, and they have been very good. The little almond bake with three whole almonds on top are divine. And not least, the staff has been very nice too. Service minded and smiley which is nice in a country where customer service is as sparse as a snowman in Hell.

So all in all I would recommend this coffee house for all but their coffee. If that is your prime concern, go somewhere else. If it is  simply a nice café experience you’re after, De Koffie Salon on Utrechtsestraat is a good place to go in one of my favourite, up-and-comming art trendy and design aware areas of Amsterdam.

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Filed under Amsterdam, Barista, Coffe Houses, Coffee, De Koffie Salon, Food and Drink, The Netherlands

Coffee in Amsterdam Part: 8

After a few bummers on the coffee front over the last few days in the capital of cloggs and tulips, I found my way to Hartenstraat 12 and Screaming Beans. Just the name is enough to make you want to go there, but what coffee! It is a place well worthy being called a coffee fanatics mecca in Amsterdam. An easy five minute walk from the Dam Square, past the Royal Palace, and you’ll find this little gem of a place on one of the short, busy sidestreets off Keizersgracht.

Screaming Beans uses beans from Bocca, a small roastery situated in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. Mainly sourcing their beans from organic farmers in Ethiopia and Kenya, they buy small exclusive batches of beans to keep the quality high. Just how I like it. It is also possible to buy their beans at Screaming Beans for you to take home. I mean, if you hadn’t had enough of coffeey goodiness for one day. Have to do that next time I’m around.

I kicked off with a macchiato which was a smooth concoction, well balanced espresso versus milk froth. No bitterness in the aftertaste. Perfect. When I asked for something more “original” I was served a cup of pour over on a freshly ground Ethiopian blend called HailesLassie. It was one of the last cups since the blend is now finished (it was created for a barista championship in Maastricht, the nice barista informed me, but in the last minute the barista competing changed his mind and created another blend whereby this came on the market for Screaming Beans to grab. For that feat I can only congratulate them) but they have plenty others which I’m sure are equally as good. This blend had a very deep fruity tone, some surprising papaya tint to it, and though not overly strong and dark, which is usually how I like it, it was a great pour.


Good coffee is hard to come by in the Netherlands. Even in the multi international capital. It is said to be getting better, but I guess I haven’t been here long enough to really tell. At times I am still chocked over the quality at some places who gives them self out to be “the real thing”. I can only say beware and be warned. Screaming Beans though is a place to visit when you’re around in Amsterdam as a coffee connoisseur.  Or coffee junkie for that matter. It is good. Very good. Can’t put it any simpler than that. My only critique would be that they close very early, at 5pm every day (which is a shame) so check the opening hours before you go. To their defense they are open on Sundays, which is rare over here. Maybe there’s a good reason for it all, I didn’t ask, but hopefully they’ll do something about that soon and stay open longer for us all to enjoy.

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A year in Amsterdam

I have now been living in Amsterdam for almost a year. Time flies, and I would like to share some of my pictures from the last year with you. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, full of life, versatility, different cultures. Great buildings, beautiful parks, nice beer. If you are looking for a few days away: go! You’ll love it. I won’t write too much about my experience of the country as a whole, that’s for another post. But here we go, enjoy the photos and I hope you will buy a ticket to go to Amsterdam soon.


Almost by Nieuwmarkt

One of my favourite spots is Het Spui, a small square with loads of bookshops selling books in all languages imaginable.

ABC, Het Spui



Athenaeum, Het Spui


Church Towers


Pretty corner house on the Amstel



Similar, but different, corner house



There’s a lot of small, private boats in Amsterdam



The Amstel at dawn


Bikes, the first love of the citizens of Amsterdam

Small man-made canal in Buitenveldert, Amsterdam Zuid

Bridge between Blauwbrug and Eremitage

Cyclist

Bike theft is common…

XXX is the city crest of Amsterdam

Nice private house on Prinzengracht

If in Amsterdam a canal tour is a must!

Traditional gas lamp outside private house on Herengracht

Telecom Tower, Amsterdam Zuid

Dawn by Sotheby’s Auctioners, Amsterdam Zuid

Autumn morning in Amstel Park

New York and London are miles better at Christmas lights. Dissapointment…

Snow storm in December by Station RAI

They love their tulips over here

More Tulips

From the roof terrace of the Public Library in July and December respectively

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Filed under Amsterdam, Architecture, Art, The Netherlands

Where is home?

Constantly travelling. Always in new accommodation. Never your own furniture. Never sleep in your own bed. You know, the one you bought six years ago to suit your length, weight and your spine perfectly? It’s in storage somewhere with three complete homes shipped from different parts of the world.

You never know when to be able to move “home” again, all depend on where the work is. It is tiring sometimes, to never know for how long you’ll be staying in a particular place. Will it be for three months? Maybe two years? Or, maybe this is where “home” will actually be from now on? God only knows.


But still, a freelancer’s existence is exiting. It gives you experiences that hardly anyone else gets early on in their career. You see new places, get to travel far and wide, enjoy the hospitality of new colleagues and friends from the most diverse backgrounds, both ethnic and geographic.


The new cuisines you get to try, oh can they not be the most interesting? You try food you fall in love with immediately, some grows on you, and some are simply inedible. Not to forget: languages. You learn a phrase here and a word there and all of a sudden you’ve picked up another language.


I think for me though, what stays with me the longest is the beauty of a place. Sometimes the cities or towns you visit are appallingly boring and you can’t wait to get away. However, the times you spend in major cities and beautiful countryside settings can be enormously rewarding.


Being able to walk in the Cotswolds on your day off, or take a stroll along the Seine before you need to be at the theatre for an afternoon session is just incredible. It is such a grace to have the opportunity of seeing all these places and spend prolonged periods of time abroad. To get to know new countries and cultures, and still being payed to be there. Isn’t that just amazing?


Still, home is always home. The saying my home is my castle couldn’t be more accurate when you spend months, sometimes years, away from the warmth of your own home. But I’m sure that one day I’ll be able to unpack all those boxes and take out all the furniture of storage. To once again be able to create my own castle, wherever that might be.


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