Some cafés look like they’ve existed since forever, confident of its own place in their neighbourhood. Others look brand new, as though they had just sprung up overnight, bright and cheerful like a Willy Wonka-style, fun-filled fungus.
And there are those who manage the fine balance of being both established yet fresh — the sort of café you look forward to spending time in, whether for a few quick minutes before heading to the office in the morning or a leisurely weekend afternoon reading an engrossing book.
As I look outside the window at the narrow, centuries-worn buildings leaning against each other like old friends, the light drizzle adding to the gone-back-in-time feeling, I am grateful to be inside where we have our cups of coffee to warm. Amsterdam’s an amazing city but seemingly prone to sudden, surprise showers, especially in autumn.
The interior of the café — Kaldi Koffie & Thee — is a soft contrast to the city outside with its canals and cobblestone walkways; here we are surrounded by an invigorating palette of orange and white, where the shiny stainless steel of moka pots and clean ceramic of coffee drippers give off a cool, modern feel. As though a nod to the season, there are maple leaves and pine cones scattered over the windowsill, and bottles of water holding gerberas in fall colours.
It’s time for coffee (or as they say in Dutch, koffietijd) and here in Amsterdam there’s really no bad time for it. While Kaldi Koffie & Thee prides itself on an equally decent selection of organic and fine teas, the coffee is why most are here. Certainly other customers at the tables around us are nursing their espressos and macchiatos.
Soraya Broekhuizen, our dark-tressed barista, tells us that café au lait is very popular in the Netherlands, only it is called koffie verkeerd (translated as “the wrong coffee”). Here it consists of equal parts coffee and milk. I tell Soraya my coffee is equal parts warmth and comfort, which makes her smile.
Tucked away in a corner in the lively and fashionable Negen Straatjes neighbourhood, Kaldi Koffie & Thee gets its fair share of local actors, architects and artists dropping by for their daily shot of caffeine. It helps being from out of town, then: we are no longer shamelessly celebrity-spotting as we are merely people-watching. Soraya tells us the café gets all sorts but it’s hard to be in fan-girl awe when the customers end up becoming regulars and even friends in some cases.
We know the feeling.
Like a scene out of the TV series ‘Cheers’ (I wonder how many of us are old enough to remember?), there’s nothing quite like walking into a café and have the barista or siphonist (or whatever café folks call themselves these days) ask you if you’ve finished your long work project yet or if you’ve returned from a holiday because you’re more tanned than usual.
Why does this matter?
Given the large number of cafés we visit on a regular basis, not to mention the quantity of coffee we consume, wouldn’t it be better if we kept café-hopping?
It is fun, I have to admit; we can get caught up in our growing appreciation for the variety of ways a café can be designed (as many as there are owners, I suspect, all different and eccentric in their own fashion), the environment or atmosphere they evoke (from cosy and quiet to crowded and electric), and the care some take in brewing their coffee and tea for customers.
There is a sense of pride.
But there is a sense of home too, for their faithful and frequent visitors. In fact, one is no longer a visitor, but part of the family.
This is why we love cafés — they are spaces where we can stop by for a while, for coffee and sanctuary, and share our café stories. There is a café out there that is just right for every one of us.
I look outside the window again. The rain has stopped and as we say goodbye to Soraya and step outside into a beautiful autumnal morning, we count our blessings. May we always have good coffee — and great cafés in which to have our coffee.
雖然 Schiphol 機場很大；吃的、喝的、玩得、買的應有盡有；
Kaldi Koffie & Thee
Herengracht 300, 1016 CD Amsterdam, the Netherlands