What Merijn doesn’t know about coffee you could balance on a single bean. He’s a superstar barista, an authorised SCA trainer and crack consultant on all things coffee. His life in hospitality began in the family hotel business, followed by a BBA in hotel management. But he always knew he wanted to do something different.
The different turned out to be coffee. He turned up in Turin for his final internship with a coffee roaster. However, his CEO, while giving this newbie Netherlander a warm welcome, had to point out that he wasn’t going to travel much further without Italian. So he took a few steps back down the ladder and started right at the bottom in the warehouse, working his way up, learning the business along with the language. Until he found himself, fluent in Italian and coffee, working in the international export department.
Merijn loves the fact that coffee is a truly global business. “Everyone drinks coffee, wherever you are in the world.” And once you got that SCA certificate tucked into your apron pocket, you can work absolutely anywhere.
He also loves the sheer variety of his working week. Alone at home testing brew times and grinds one day, running a seminar the next. But what really makes him happy is when he’s out there serving at a show and a hangover walks in just wanting coffee, any coffee will do, right now. And he hands over a perfectly brewed cup of something really special and waits for the smile of appreciation. “Serve good coffee, and you’re everyone’s friend!”
Being versatile is definitely the key to survival. Covid 19 has not been kind to the coffee industry but Merijn says he’s constantly amazed by the creativity that’s bubbled up and kept it afloat. “Can’t come to us? We’ll bring the coffee to you, ready to drink just how you like it. Or just the beans, ready to grind in that magnificent new machine you’ve just invested in.”
Merijn cares as much about the welfare of his Ethiopian growers as he does about the woes of European brewers. He believes Black Lives Matter has highlighted historical issues in the coffee industry; such as the inherent colonialism in the way green coffee’s often sourced. He’d love to see a shift in power away from the countries that buy to those that produce. And a truly fair price paid to small farmers who grow just a few coffee bushes alongside their other crops, who simply can’t scale up and compete with the large plantations. He welcomes the move towards single estate and microlot coffees, each with a story to tell and a face to go with the flavour.
It’s probably no surprise that Merijn is also pretty passionate about plant-based. He’s been working with the plant-based pioneers, Alpro, since 2012 and has seen the movement grow and grow. ‘Back then, if I’d gone into a coffee shop in Amsterdam and asked for soya instead of milk, I’d have been laughed at. Now at least 50% of every coffee served in the city’s specialty coffee bars is plant-based.” His advice to baristas on getting the best from plant-based? “Just experiment with different coffees, different milk alternatives until you get the perfect ratio. They’re so easy to work with now, and there’s so much variety there’s something for everyone. Just remember, it doesn’t matter how much good it’s doing the planet, if it doesn’t taste good, they won’t ask for it again!” Working with Alpro, helping them create and perfect their pro products has been a “really fun collaboration”.
Amazingly, given all the plates he’s spinning, Merijn still finds time to unwind. He says
keeping work and leisure in separate boxes is essential when you’re your own boss “and the laptop is always winking at you”. He escapes the everyday by hiking and jogging in his nearby forests, reading anything from novels to National Geographic and exploring new foods and drinks. Especially, and perhaps surprisingly, tea!
"The perfect espresso should have just the right balance of acidity, bitterness and sweetness."
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
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