An Australian coffee-lover in Amsterdam – quality, culture and the Aussie influence

I’m delighted to share this guest post by Jai Morton, an Australian writer and content creative based in Amsterdam, who is fuelled by a love of words, travel and storytelling. -Renee

We’ve created a real culture of coffee and ‘cafe society’ in Australia – those 20 dollar eggs and avo seem so justified at the time, and we’ll even get up early for them, to kickstart our Sunday. (I do reminisce about those New Farm market Sundays, followed by nearby brunch with mates).

But we must know a thing or two about the golden bean. Around the world, quite often, you find good coffee poured lovingly by the hand of an Aussie – whether you look up ‘best coffee in Amsterdam’, unsuspectingly find yourself in an Aussie-inspired or owned establishment, or get a recommendation from a friend.

So as someone who’s always found the industry and the art of coffee fascinating – and spent her uni-years pouring in cafes around Brisbane, Australia – here goes a little ode to my experience with coffee since moving to Amsterdam. With a slight bent on the Aussie influence I so often encounter.

Aussie charm

Aussie charm in the Netherlands can be found at Little Collins in Amsterdam. 

Since moving abroad, I decided to go back to the world of hospitality alongside my freelance writing gig. I have to admit, I had reservations about returning to the world of “on your feet all day” after so long. But lucky for me, I joined the team at Little Collins in January. 

If you’re a local, you probably know them of de Pijp fame – delicious, eclectic brunches, a sweet, plant-adorned terrace, and great coffee (not to mention espresso martinis!). The owners – Georgina (from Melbourne), and Stan (the Dutchie) have done so well, that I joined the team at their new sister cafe in Amsterdam West. Not only did I find my Aussie family abroad (the one I didn’t know I needed until I had it), but I got back behind the coffee machine beside their then head barista, Drew. 

While I’m certain Drew’s Aussie charm entertained some customers, it was also his coffee they enjoyed. Drew lived and worked the coffee scene in Melbourne for years before moving abroad, his trainers and colleagues boasting a range of coffee industry accolades. He’s been making the good stuff since 2007 at the likes of Cafenatics and Code Black Coffee Roasters, and then more recently changed it up, moving to Malmö, Sweden, where he worked for Djäkne. And now,? A fellow Aussie in Amsterdam – he’s moved from Little Collins to the city’s revered Rum Baba, where he’s chasing his passion for roasting. 

Quality, culture and ethics

I was also lucky to touch up my coffee knowledge with Amsterdam’s White Label Coffee– where Little Collins get their beans. Aside from knowing what their passion, what I like about White Label is their fresh outlook and commitment to coffee quality and ethics. In my pursuit to learn more, I caught up with roaster and barista Wouter Andeweg. 

He tells me the company started back in 2014, which doesn’t seem so long ago. “But the coffee culture in Amsterdam was very different then. Starbucks and Coffee Company were the most prominent cafes we had,” he says.

So White Label Coffee was something new on the scene. 

“We created a place where good coffee was a standard. And it was (and still is) always very important to us to find the right balance between a high end coffee quality bar and a comfortable atmosphere for people.”

“Our customers are a combination of people who taste coffee and people who drink coffee. The interior of the cafe, the equipment and the knowledge our baristas have are for the ‘coffee nerds’ to enjoy, but we also like being a local bar where you can have a cappuccino with apple pie while talking to your mom.”

And in terms of how they run things? They primarily focus on flavour. All of their quality control is done blindly, so as not to be influenced by any background information about specific coffees. 

“But quality isn’t the only thing we should think about. In the current coffee market it is very easy to get a good quality coffee for a very low price. And we think in order to truly create a better quality coffee, we need to be more aware of what is happening on the farm level,” Wouter says. 

“And we can’t ask more from coffee farmers if we keep on paying low prices. That’s why we’re always looking for ways to pay our farmers more.”

They do this with a direct trade program in Brazil, for example. 

“A farmer and friend of ours, Bruno, produces amazing coffee and ships it directly to us. Of course, it isn’t possible to work directly with a producer in every country, so we also opt for small and local importers.”

“Because there are less people involved, the amount of money that goes to the farmer is typically higher.” 

It seems these folks are going from strength to strength, having also recently opened a second cafe, ambitiously named schuurmanoomkensgrassoti – a combination of White Label’s two owners’ and previous barista’s last names. I’m yet to check it out.

The ones you know, and the ones you should try

Another I still haven’t ventured to is Drovers Dog. (If you’ve been in Amsterdam a while you’ll no doubt have heard of it, or been a few times). Dishing up “Aussie-style-brunch, lunch and dinner”, they offer a range of Australian beers (I’ve been craving Stone and Wood!), and an “Aussie-style coffee culture” too. And of course, there’s Lot Sixty One. A Nieuwe-West local, I’ve spent a few of the warmer sunny mornings with coffee and banana bread on their Kinkerstraat seating. 

So it’s safe to say us Aussies have injected more than the flat white into Amtsterdam’s coffee culture. And, you know, it’s fun to be known for a good cup of coffee, among other things. But aside from the above, there’s definitely no shortage of gezelligcoffee haunts in Amsterdam worth visiting.

Some of my favourites include:

And if you’re living in Amsterdam, you’re bound to be travelling to nearby cities like me.

Some of my recent favourites while travelling include:

  • Portugal – The Mill– strolling the sleepy December streets of Ericeira, Portugal, I visited this little beauty with a friend who knows her coffee. An Australian-Portugese cafe, they’re serving speciality coffee and hearty food (I recall vegemite in there somewhere).
  • Toulouse– La Fiancée– a darling facade, I had to settle for a (delicious) take-away here, because the place was packed for Sunday morning breakfast goers. 
  • Brussels– My Little Cup– the sweetest space, and the tastiest sip. 
  • Oslo – My Ugly Baby, formerly Taylor&Jøran– the owners are a half Norwegian, half Australian duo, and their focus is on amazing doughnuts and coffee. They also roast and ship your coffee (which includes blends by Tim Wendelboe) order to you weekly.

Here’s to the wonderful city we call home – Aussies and Dutchies alike – and good coffee (even an iced latte or two) – as we head into summer!

Article contributed by Jai Morton, an Australian writer and content creative based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Fuelled by a love of words, travel and storytelling, she is fascinated by the messiness – and loveliness – of being human.

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