Try Merijin 's Favorite
Urnex Product

"The Urnex Cafiza Espresso Machine Cleaning Powder is my friend at events. I do a lot of trainings, tradeshows and festivals, but not always on my own machine. Sometimes the groupheads haven't been cleaned by the previous user, and don't even get me started on the inside of the portafilters. Whenever possible I try to get the products from the Full Circle range. They are phosphate free and biodegradable. You might as well care about the environment while you’re cleaning. "
Cafiza® Espresso Machine Cleaning Powder

Merijin Gijsbers

Netherlands

What is your current occupation and employer?

• Freelance barista and consultant
• Owner 'Het Koffiegenootschap'
• Authorized SCA Trainer

List all of the national and world coffee competitions you have competed in:

• 2016, Dutch Barista Championship, 6th place
• 2017, Dutch Barista Championship, 1st place
• 2017, World Barista Championship, 16th place
• 2018, Dutch Barista Championship, 2nd place

How did you get into the coffee industry? When did you know you wanted to turn your passion for coffee into a career?

I grew up in the hospitality industry, so food and beverage have always played an important role in my family. When I was in the final year of my study (BBA in Hotel-management), I had the chance to do an internship at the export department of an Italian coffee roastery. However, the CEO requested that I learned Italian so I could easily communicate with my colleagues. In order to improve my language skills, and to get to know the company, I worked several weeks at the various departments. It was in the roastery, quality control office and training centre that I discovered I wanted to work with coffee, and not just in the coffee industry.

I finished my study and started working for the Dutch importer of this brand; part time as office manager and part time as barista trainer. After a while my work moved more and more to the office, so I decided it was time for a change. I took on a new job in a starting company where I was responsible for their coffee and tea department (both bar and shop). After 6 months the staff was trained and everything was successfully up and running. In 2011 I quit my job and started working as a freelance barista, trainer and consultant. I haven't regretted this decision for a single moment!

What's the best piece of coffee-related advice you've received?

Be open to new ideas. Don't just follow the existing rules, but follow your taste. Share and exchange experiences with other baristas and NEVER stop learning.

Who in the coffee industry has served as an inspiration for you?

My first mentor in coffee was Fabio Verona, the quality control manager at Caffè Costadoro. He's responsible for the foundation of my coffee knowledge and ignited the passion for this occupation. I remember watching the WBC live-stream together. I was impressed by the knowledge and skills of these coffee-heroes. Whenever I was traveling I made a list of specialty coffee bars before planning all the other sightseeing. Barely daring to watch the baristas in the eye, I would visit as many coffee shops as possible and order as many different coffees I could drink. And whenever a barista with a smile and great hospitality skills would take the effort to passionately tell me more about the coffee, I thought: “Wow, I want to be like this pro!”. And I still do.

But I'm also inspired by coffee-producers like the Hartmann family, who work so hard to produce the best coffee they can with greatest respect to nature.

I think that's what makes this industry so special: because coffee is such a laborious product, we as a community are keen on working together and sharing knowledge. I think that true inspiration can be found by looking at all the people in the industry.

What is the reaction you receive when you tell someone outside the coffee community that you are a champion barista competitor.

When I tell people outside the industry that I'm a barista, I often get surprising reactions, like: “So you make coffee for a living!?”. But when I explain them that it involves more than 'just making coffee', and when I start talking about competitions, they get a certain respect for the dedication of the people in this industry.

Although I do mention it on my social media profiles, I rarely tell people in person that I'm a former champion. Unless they ask if I've ever competed and how I ranked. My role as an ambassador is to promote the industry, and I feel it would devalue my occupation if I present myself as a champion over being a barista.

What is your favorite Urnex product and why?

The Urnex Cafiza Espresso Machine Cleaning Powder is my friend at events. I do a lot of trainings, tradeshows and festivals, but not always on my own machine. Sometimes the groupheads haven't been cleaned by the previous user, and don't even get me started on the inside of the portafilters.

Whenever possible I try to get the products from the Full Circle range. They are phosphate free and biodegradable. You might as well care about the environment while you’re cleaning.

What makes coffee culture unique in your country?

The Dutch have been drinking coffee for a long time, and we belong to the countries with the highest coffee consumption. Although we should not forget the dark pages in our history, I think coffee and the Netherlands are intertwined from the golden age on. Brands as Douwe Egberts and Moccamaster find their roots in the Netherlands. The dutch drink coffee during the entire day, and it's often part of a social event. Over the past years I've noticed a huge increase in specialty coffee, both in coffee shops and at home. Especially with the World of Coffee in Amsterdam this year, there has been a good focus on competitions.

Outside coffee, what do you do for fun?

I love traveling, and I'm very lucky that my job involves a lot of it. Although I don't always have time for sightseeing, I like to combine it with my other passion: photography. Food plays an important role in my life, and I really enjoy cooking and eating. When I'm not traveling I often hike with my partner. We live close to the woods, so it's an ideal short 'getaway' during our days off.

What is your favorite brew method at home and why?

It depends on the time of the day and the available coffees in the house. Although I can really enjoy a nice espresso, we drink filter-coffee most of the time. Usually a V60 or Chemex pour over, depending on the type of beans.

What's one thing you'd like an average person to know about specialty coffee?

That coffee isn't just coffee. All those flavours in the cup are there for a reason. Intentionally. It saddens me if someone doesn't value a coffee and all the work that people have put into it. If it doesn't match someone’s personal taste, that's ok. But too often people still take good coffee for granted.

Where would you like to be and what would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?

That's a difficult question. Especially because I've got so much variation and enjoyment in my current job. I hope I'll still be sharing knowledge, but also learning new things myself every day. I can imagine that a big part of my job is still in product development. I'd like to learn more about roasting, so I might be focusing more on that part of the business. One thing for sure - I'll still be drinking lots of delicious coffees!

Try Merijin 's Favorite Urnex Product

"The Urnex Cafiza Espresso Machine Cleaning Powder is my friend at events. I do a lot of trainings, tradeshows and festivals, but not always on my own machine. Sometimes the groupheads haven't been cleaned by the previous user, and don't even get me started on the inside of the portafilters. Whenever possible I try to get the products from the Full Circle range. They are phosphate free and biodegradable. You might as well care about the environment while you’re cleaning. "
Cafiza® Espresso Machine Cleaning Powder