The best coffee-to-go in the Netherlands
Coffee is not such an ancient invention. It was in the 15th century when people started to enjoy drinking coffee. Then the race began. Dutch people won it when, in 1616, Pieter van den Broecke stole coffee bushes in Yemen and delivered them to the greenhouses at the Amsterdam Botanical Garden. From then on, Dutch people were able to cultivate their own coffee varieties and, just a few years later, it was the Dutch that became the leading suppliers of coffee to Europe.
Types of coffee
We distinguish two primary types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are more "royal" because they have a sweeter, softer taste, with additional tones of berries, chocolate or fruits. Robusta, on the other hand, has a more robust flavour, which could be perceived as harsh but it also gets you a nice creme on top of your coffee!
Robusta is used willingly in Italy. It is blended with Arabica (20% Robusta and 80% Arabica, sometimes even 50:50). We need to remember that not every Arabica is excellent, and not every Robusta is terrible! Everything depends on the region and the cultivation method.
If you like black coffee, you would probably go with espresso, doppio (double espresso), ristretto (the same amount of coffee as in espresso, but less water during brewing), lungo (elongated espresso, the same amount of coffee as in espresso, but brewed with more water), americano (espresso + hot water, added separately). The most popular way of serving coffee in cafés and restaurants relies on espresso basis, and there's a lot!
If you like coffee with milk, you can go with a latte; café au lait or, in the Netherlands, koffie verkeerd, which literally translates as "coffee went wrong." You could also try a cappuccino, which is an espresso with steamed milk and milk foam or a latte macchiato, which is similar to a cappuccino in that it is made from espresso with steamed milk and milk foam as well as other combinations, sometimes with additions of syrup, chocolate or Irish whiskey.
Have you ever spotted a "V60", "Chemex," "French Press," "Aero Press," or "Cold Brew" on a menu? Those are names for espresso-based coffee alternatives, and they are dedicated to the so-called "speciality coffee" brewing methods.
Speciality coffee is a term for the highest grade of coffee available. This coffee introduces different notes of flavour (citrus, strawberries, plum, chocolate, flowers) and should be brewed in a different way - by filtering it. There are exceptions, however! Of course, you can find a speciality form of espresso, which is very often from Brazil.
So, for example, "V60" stands for "Hario V60", a popular dripper with spiral ridges in which you put a light filter. Thanks to that, it works well with bright, fruity and floral coffees such as those from Kenya, Costa Rica, El Salvador, or Guatemala. On the other hand, "Chemex" also uses a filter, but it's thicker and highlights the "brighter" notes of the coffee (for me, it works well with beans from Ethiopia).
A guide to coffee in the Netherlands
It is impossible to create a universal guide that will fit everybody's taste profiles. Thus, this a very subjective list! I personally really like balanced espresso and speciality coffee that has something interesting inside and is not sour (which it very often is in cafes) nor bitter. Another critical factor is the experience: whether a barista knows the product that he / she is offering and how I feel about the atmosphere inside the coffee house. All places mentioned in this list completely fulfil those requirements.
Back To Black in Weteringstraat is my favourite place in Amsterdam. It was not so easy to find a place where coffee was balanced, and where my question of "what beans do you have" was not a surprise. I get served with perfect and fruity coffee from Rwanda, prepared at an ideal temperature. They also roast coffee beans, so it is perfect if you want to enjoy your coffee at home. Just buy the fresh batch, and there you have it!
I checked many places in Rotterdam before I found "the one." "The one" is called Hopper Coffee and they offer various home-roasted coffees. I've tested beans from Ethiopia, and I really enjoyed it. They are strongly focused on taste, not only of their coffee but everything that goes with it. I recommend ordering a lemon cake for your cup of coffee. It really is a perfect combination!
If you would like to check the coffee roastery and order beans directly to your home, go with Schot Koffie. They not only have great coffee beans but also a friendly approach to farmers they cooperate with. It is just lovely.
While in Dordrecht, check The City Roastery. The place is in the centre of the busy old town of Dordrecht. It is an excellent place to rest and sip a nice hot beverage. The coffee here is delicious, both from the espresso machine and filter, and the tea is even better.
The best coffee in Dordrecht is the Bitter&Real roastery. You should keep an eye out for their coffee in restaurants and at events (try to find their coffee-truck.) The coffee they offer is perfectly balanced, and I really enjoy beans from Brazil (they are a constant guest of my espresso machine), which have tones of dried fruit, dark chocolate, and strawberry. You can also buy it online!
What about Den Haag and other cities?
I have been to Den Haag, Haarlem, Leiden and Eindhoven in search of good coffee. I have to admit that I didn't succeed to find something that I can recommend for an excellent coffee experience. Of course, I didn't check all the possible places. So if anybody can suggest something, PLEASE write in the comments where I should go. I would love to find the best coffee in these cities as well!
Coffee for everyone!
So, there you have it. My guide to the best coffee you can find in the Netherlands. This is, as mentioned above, a personal guide. Everyone has her / his own taste for coffee, so the opinions can vary. The best way to find your perfect coffee is to get out there and start tasting all the different types and flavours that this wonderful country has to offer.