Is this the best coffee house in Amsterdam then? No, not when it comes to the coffee. There’s no reason beating around the bush. Latei on Zeedijk 143 is not the best coffee in town. Good, but not great.
It is, however, one of the most characterfull places I’ve visited since moving here. It is situated by Nieuwmarkt , just at the end of Amsterdam’s China Town district. Walking past, it looks like a really tacky junkshop at first. But if you give it a second or two you see that it is full of chic students and an arty clientele. Full of horn rimmed glasses and knitted, if terribly expensive, sweaters that are just the right shade for bohemia. If you see what I mean. I’ve never seen so many intellectuals crammed in such a small space in my life. The only thing that beat this, if only just, is probably the photographs of Sartre and de Beauvoir sitting with friends in Paris in the 1960s.
Latei don’t just serve coffee. They also sell vintage bags’, dinner china, glasses, chandeliers and quirky stuff you really don’t need but could kill for ‘cause it’s just so cool. In general I don’t care about cool, but after having found this place I do. How will I survive without a 1970s freestanding cigarette lighter? I just have to do my best. Or go back and buy it. It’s only €7.50 after all. The atmosphere is what makes this place so great. As I said above, the coffee is good but not world class. For my second order I actually couldn’t be bothered to order another coffee. Instead I opted for the freshly pressed orange juice and a croissant. The juice was really nice and, believe it or not, the croissant was a dream. Really buttery without going soggy. I have to try one next time as well to see if it was just pure luck or if the croissant level is consistently high. If it is, that’s just another reason to come back here often. The staff is sweet, helpful and what seems to be the standard requirement in Amsterdam: good looking students working extra. Over here I’ve hardly seen café staff over the age of 25. And as long as the service standard is high, I could not care less.
With its white walls, overwhelmingly bright wallpapers and lime green windowsills this is one of the quirkiest but nicest places I’ve been to. London included. A place like this in London would have been way under the standard I expect from a place serving food and drink, but here it smells nice and all is clean and fresh. For this I love Amsterdam. If you’re looking for a nice place to relax and read a book (as long as it is not by too common an author) this is where you must go.
The need for coziness has been aptly fulfilled and there’s no need to feel sorry for the state of coffee places in Amsterdam. As it was Sunday I and S. went for a stroll along the canals of Amsterdam and found this really nice little place past the infamous Red Light district, on Zeedijk 43. It’s called Wijs & Zonen and is one of the oldest coffee roasters in the Netherlands. Apparently. It was founded in the 18th century, I believe, but exactly when is a bit hard to figure out from the info on their homepage. After a couple of minutes browsing through the “history” section I got so tired and confused of all the dates and various families involved that I gave up. So if you really care you have to do the homework yourselves. Sorry guys.
More importantly though, this is a place with real character. With its tiny forecourt it was lovely to sit outside for the first bit, drinking tea (!) and reading my beloved The Observer. I have found this really nice place by Spui where one can get the British newspapers on Sundays and then simply find a nice spot to sit for hours, reading and drinking coffee or, like today, start off with a pot of tea. Sounds blasphemous, I know, but I just happened to crave a nice Assam tea this morning. The world’s blatantly gone topsy-turvy. Later on though, after the rain had started drizzling for the umpteenth time this week, I moved inside for a macchiato and the world order was restored.
At Wijs & Zonen they roast their own coffee beans and blend their own teas to perfection. I guess that’s why they are Purveyors to the Royal Dutch Court. The coffee was good, not extraordinary in any way but really good. Nothing to complain nor to write home about. However, what made it a nice cup of coffee was that it had no hint of bitterness. None what so ever. They use an Indonesian coffee blend called Toradja Prince with a fairly low caffeine percentage, but regardless of that obvious flaw, it tastes really smooth and well rounded. I might just have to go back for a bag for myself. With that in mind I would really recommend a visit, but also since it is one of these places where you feel that you could sit forever. It felt like home, or like a good friends living room. The furniture is rustic but still welcoming. The white walls contrasts well against the darker furniture in the central part of the coffee house. In the back are the big cases and crates full of coffee beans and tea leaves, where you can also sit and look out on the little forecourt. The street in the front can be quite busy but it’s nothing you notice thanks to the coffee rooms being at the back of the shop where you can also buy their products. All in all this is a place, even if it wasn’t my greatest coffee experience so far, where I’d love to become a regular. For the nice staff and for the homely, home-made-pie sort of feeling.
And not to forget: they have a house cat named Peppy, how great is that? A place with their own house cat just have to be gold!