The Amsterdam Coffee Festival was a hot ticket, this year taking place from March 18 to 20 in the Westergasfabriek. The former gas factory is better known in the Dutch capital’s history as a place for mega techno parties, but ACF 2016 generated its own kind of ecstasies, with over 100 brands represented by industry veterans, newcomers, and familiar faces seen in a fresh light.
1) Dutch Brewers Cup
Not an everyday sighting in these Low Countries, the Phoenix70 is what let Rob Kerkhoff arise from his very own ashes to become, once again, the 2016 Dutch Brewers Cup Champion. The futuristic-looking apparatus was a fitting choice for this barista who has prior called himself “Robocup. Part man. Part machine.” Last year, Kerkhoff placed fifth in the World Brewers Cup with his Chemex and Espro Press paired method, and he has since become one fourth of the team behind Keen Coffee…
2) Keen Coffee
Rob Kerkhoff’s win, just steps from the booth where Keen Coffee debuted the same day, was a grand slam for the new coffee supply and training collective. And if their crystal-clear festival literature is any indication (they gave out a how-to for keeping coffee fresh, a user’s guide to the Phoenix70, and Kerkhoff’s recipe), they’re very capable educators. Co-founder and fellow barista Bonne Postma happily announced that their Brewers Cup-winning natural Colombian coffee from Las Margaritas farm in Campo Azul sold out at ACF. Fortunately, Keen’s other half, Tosca Schuitemaker and Jan Schuitemaker, are roasters.
3) Scandinavian Embassy
In the VIP suite, away from the hubbub of stands and stages, Amsterdam cafe Scandinavian Embassy served a sit-down three-course food and coffee pairing. This was no avocado-toast kind of affair, but more like—take the second course as an example—scallops flambéed in gin and roasted coffee flowers, served with a pour-over of Lomi Tasha Yirgacheffe roasted by Per Nordby. On brief breaks during the sold-out seatings, chef Rikard Anderrson and barista Nicolas Castagno could be seen doing restorative stretches, à la Williams sisters between sets. Their next match: the London Coffee Festival.
4) April Tea
Like the first-flush month her tea company is named for, Talitha Czaikowski brought her Persephoneous spirit and usual warmth to ACF. April Tea showcased leaves for summer beverage, such as their Herbal Hibiscus, which visitors could sample as a cold drink paired with dark chocolate, and their umami-noted Sencha paired with Parmesan cheese. Practical, too, was the White Tea, which according to Czaikowski—who is a business partner to Bocca Coffee and the life partner of Bocca’s strategy and development half, Menno Simons—helped cleanse the palate of coffee tastes.
5) Dutch Barista Competition
Audiences experienced double déjà vu when 2015 Dutch Barista Champion Lex Wenneker, like his brewing colleague Kerkhoff, won for a second year in a row. His World Barista Competition experience helped prepare him for Amsterdam 2016, Wenneker told Sprudge, noting that “the [national] competition was even harder this year.” Cafe Granja La Esperanza produced all his competition coffee, with a signature drink taking the form of espresso blended in a Magic Bullet with raspberry-infused green apple juice and lavender-infused black tea. When Headfirst Coffee Roasters, the roaster and cafe he co-owned, closed this past fall, many Amsterdam loyalists were crushed, though Wenneker found not having to run a business while practicing “slightly more relaxing.”
6) Based on Roots
“We are not so young anymore but our company is quite young,” laughed Conny Bouwman. Making their festival premiere, she and “business partner and partner in everything” Bernadette van Beek are the friendly entrepreneurs behind Based on Roots. The Nijmegen-based duo curates lifestyle products in contemporary styles that catch the eye and with craftsmanship that convinces the hand. Most must-have were Chanto espresso cups and Milco Handy Coffee Mills, both designed by Takumi Shimamura and available for purchase online .
ACF 2016 marked precisely one year of existence for Stooker Roasting Company, but the Amsterdam roaster and Specialty Coffee Association of Europe-certified educator seemed anything but sophomoric. In brand-new, navy blazers with gold script embroidery, the team was doing what they do best: selling meticulously prepared coffee and imparting wisdom to aficionados of all levels. Fulfilling the promise on their blue A-frame sign, Stooker Roasting Academy randomly chose one festival-goer to win two free coffee-ed modules. As co-founder Florian Hessel explained: “We only do SCAE-certified training because we believe we can roast the hell out of every coffee, but if you don’t brew it right, it still tastes like crap.”
8) This Side Up
Talk to any serious Dutch micro-roaster and one name is sure to come up: Lennart Clerkx. His fair-value sourcing company This Side Up brought some of the Rwandan coffee producers he works with to be present at the festival and, in so doing, even got diplomats talking. “We decided to create a space where Rwandan coffee producers can get inspired by seeing up close how their coffees taste and look as a finished specialty product,” a Rwandan embassy counselor said of the initiative, as quoted in Rwandan daily New Times. Alongside Clerkx, proud client White Label Coffee served coffee produced at eight washing stations across Rwanda.
9) Dutch Cup Tasters Champion
When charismatic MC Keri Mol proclaimed Frans van den Berg the 2016 Dutch Cup Tasters Champion, not only was it a victory for the 21 year old, it was quite the upset to a three-year winning streak. Van den Berg, one half of the mobile espresso bar service known as the Barista Brothers, beat Yoeri Joosten, who had enjoyed a 2013, 2014, and 2015 trifecta and ranked third in the last World Cup Tasters Championship. A Facebook post by the Barista Brothers summarized their reaction in a word: “HOLYSHIT!!!!!”
10) Weezer Pulling Shots?!
Why on earth was the lead singer of Weezer spotted behind a La Marzocco Linea Classic customized with Zink’s school bus-yellow retro-fit panels? Wait, that’s no alterna-pop icon—it’s Yakup Aydin. (Though ooh wee ooh he looks just like Rivers Cuomo!) The Dutch Barista Champion 2010, who now works the bar at Bocca’s Amsterdam flagship, spent his ACF serving up Modbar-made drinks around the bend, where trusty Dutch industry supplier Espresso Service West had set up shop and attracted a bunch more “celebaristas.”
Karina Hof is a Sprudge staff writer based in Amsterdam. Read more Karina Hof on Sprudge.