Try Merijn's Favorite
"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 is your current occupation and employer?
I am the owner of 'Het Koffiegenootschap' (The Coffee Society), a freelance barista and consultant, and an 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
- 2018, Dubai International Coffee Championship, 1st 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.
What’s one piece of advice you could give that would help make an average barista become a great barista?
Always put yourself in the guest’s position: what's their coffee knowledge? What do they usually drink, and how will they perceive the drink you're serving them? What relevant info do they need, or want, to hear? Make sure that you respect the coffee you’re working with and put it in the spotlight. If you're passionate about the coffee, you will most likely transfer that feeling to your guest. And lastly, keep educating yourself and keep experimenting. Don't just follow the basic rules, but challenge them. Find out 'why' something works or doesn't work.
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.
Can you tell us about your experience at the International Dubai Coffee Championship: How was it different from an SCA sanctioned barista competition? And did it force you to use barista skills you don’t use in other competitions?
You have to serve two double espresso's, two double shot-based milk-beverages, 2 pour-over coffees and two signature-drinks with a food-pairing within 25 minutes. The signature-drink is the only coffee that can be prepared with a coffee brought by yourself. All other coffees have to be prepared with beans that are received one hour before the competition. You receive some basic info on the beans the day beforehand, but you have to find out all other info yourself. This means it really comes down to your skills to find the right recipe for both roasts within a short time and memorise the flavour characteristics of a coffee you haven't worked with before. Also, 25 minutes of talking time is quite a lot of time to fill without a well-prepared routine. Without months of preparations and a large support-team, it makes it closer to a real-life cafe setting, instead of executing an entirely memorised routine.
Describe the importance of cleaning or clean equipment in making the best coffee beverages.
Clean equipment is everything! Without proper cleaning your coffee will taste horrible and your equipment might malfunction. But your equipment is mostly also in sight of your guests. Make sure that it always shines bright like a diamond ;-)
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?
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 is your go-to beverage to order at a café?
Usually a pour over or batch brew.
What is your favorite origin country, region or farm?
There are so many great coffees from different origins. And so many farms that have a fantastic story. I think Finca Sophia from Panama, and the Hartmann plantations will always have a special place in my heart, as they have been a constant in my competitions.
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!