A Coffee in Amsterdam (with a small cookie)

Cafes and “terrasjes” will be open starting June 1st. After more than two months of being closed down due to the COVID-19 crisis, I, along with the rest of the Netherlands, will finally be able to enjoy a good coffee outside of my own home.

For those of you who don’t know, the Dutch word “terrasje” basically just means any kind of outdoor seating at a cafe, bar, or restaurant. It sounds a little bit like “terrace”, which I’ve always liked. The two words are definitely related.

I remember when I got my first coffee in the Netherlands. It was at a Bagels and Beans, which for those of you who don’t know, is a Dutch chain that, as the name suggests, serves coffee (that’s the “beans” part) and some version of bread with a hole in it that they call a bagel.

My girlfriend would always make fun of how large American coffees are. She’s Dutch, and we met while studying together in the US. She would ALWAYS comment on how large the coffee sizes were. “The American small is a large in the Netherlands,” she would say.

And she has a point. But that’s not the case at a Bagels and Beans.

Cappuccinos at a Bagels and Beans. It comes in a soup bowl.

The first Bagels and Beans I went to was in De Pijp in Amsterdam. It was when I visited the Netherlands for the first time about 4 years ago. I have fond memories of that place because it’s where I was falling in love with Sara.

Because the Bagels and Beans tries to be very American, I didn’t think much about the coffee or cafe culture in the Netherlands. Getting a coffee in Amsterdam or in New York City— the two seemed the same to me.

I was DEAD WRONG. And this became painfully obvious at the next cafe I went to, which was

a brown cafe.

You might not know what that means, and to be honest, even after 4 years I’m not 100% certain where that phrase comes from. But it’s really quite typical in a city like Amsterdam. A brown cafe or a brown bar is just an old-timey cafe with dark / wooden walls and furniture.

A brown cafe in Amsterdam.

Back in the US, I never really drank coffee at bars or places that looked like bars. A brown cafe is exactly that. And the difference between a bar and a cafe is also not as clear in the Netherlands as it is in America.

My girlfriend was right about the coffee sizes. They are REALLY small in the Netherlands.

Coffee to go in the Netherlands on a canal.

That wasn’t very nice. Although on the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that coffee was much cheaper in Amsterdam than in Philadelphia, where I lived at the time. The coffee I ordered at the brown cafe was only 2 euros and 20 cents.

What a bargain! Not to mention that the coffee is served in literally the cutest way— with a little cookie on the side.

Now if you’re looking for plain old drip coffee or filter coffee, you can’t find that in the Netherlands. So if you’re visiting here, and say, walk into a cafe in Amsterdam, you better be prepared to order a proper caffeinated beverage!

Can I recommend a “koffie verkeerd”?

“Koffie verkeerd” = coffee wrong. A typical Dutch coffee drink with a cookie on the side.

It was only my second day in Amsterdam when a friend of Sara’s explained to me what a “koffie verkeerd” was. Sara had ordered the drink for me at the brown cafe we were at because she knew I wanted to try Dutch things. “It’s coffee done wrong” the friend said. Usually, you have some milk with your coffee, but this drink is definitely more milk than coffee.

All I can say is that it’s delicious. If you google it, you’ll get a bunch of different suggestions for what a “koffie verkeerd” is. But really, I think people make it slightly differently so it can either look and taste like a cafe au lait or a flat white. Take your pick.

When Sara and I were back in the US, we realized that even Americans who had been to the Netherlands didn’t quite get the Dutch coffee culture. We were talking to a coworker of ours who had visited the Dutchlands before, and he, being a coffee lover like I am, said how much he loved the coffee in Amsterdam.

I was SO excited by this. And this guy was a hipster who lived in New York. Naturally, I fully expected that we would launch into a conversation of mutual appreciation for a culture where coffee and cafes were truly appreciated. I was eager to bond with him about how the Dutch actually didn’t like to get their coffee to go— they preferred to drink it at their pretty cafes!

The hipster begins to describe an idyllic scene. He was walking around in Amsterdam in the city center. Of course, there were a lot of tourists. He continued to walk along the canals, admiring the beautiful buildings with their gorgeous old windows.

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The gorgeous canals, buildings, and windows of Amsterdam.

At some point during his walk, he felt the need for some coffee. So he wandered into a side street in the center, to a lesser known coffee place. And he had the most amazing cappuccino!

Sara and I were eager to know where he had been. Where was this elusive place?! He stared thoughtfully into the distance, trying to remember the name of this hidden treasure. After minutes of thinking, he said, “the Coffee Company!”

What a let down! If you aren’t familiar with this, let me tell you, the Coffee Company is essentially the Dutch Starbucks. They are EVERYWHERE. This is not to say that they don’t have good coffee. Their coffee is actually not that bad. But it’s no brown cafe.

6 thoughts on “A Coffee in Amsterdam (with a small cookie)

Add yours

  1. Hi, loving your posts!
    I’d just like to tell you that brown cafes are indeed called that way because of their interior. There’s a historical link to this as well. In the 19th century some Belgian and Dutch families who didn’t have much money used to turn a small room at the front of their house into a cafe at home. In doing so they could make a little extra. It was quite a common practice and only changed when the government decided people needed an expensive permit to open a cafe from now on. Anyway, those home cafes were usually styled with the brown furniture etc. because that’s just all they had. The rooms were small so it was already quite dark but people smoked inside as well, so the wallpaper, curtains and even the walls themselves literally turned brown after a while. All those things contributed to the term. We just kept the interior and homey 19th century feel 🙂
    Have a good one!

    Like

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