Perhaps no other coffee shop has a better views than Quartier Putain. Located on Oudekerksplein right in the middle of Red Light District, the café overlooks the 800-year-old parish church Oude Kerk and is within calling distance of the infamous prostitutes in windows.

In fact, that’s how Quartier Putain got its name, which means “prostitute quarter” in French. Sandwiched between the city’s oldest building and lure of the world’s oldest profession, this coffee shop has to work especially hard to draw in both the devout and the deviant.

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White label coffee is usually a term of anonymity – coffee suppliers who supply retail-appropriate roasted beans to cafés and companies to be packaged with the logos of these clients – but White Label Coffee is certainly known for roasting their own beans.

Started by Franscesco Grassotti (formerly a barista at Amsterdam coffee landmarks Espressofabriek and Quartier Putain) and Elmer Oomkens (who was Grassotti’s colleague at Brandmeesters), White Label Coffee does have an aura of anonymity, situated as it is in the Jan Evertsenstraat neighborhood. This is not a café that screams for attention.

With high ceilings, white walls and blonde wood floors, White Label Coffee is minimalist in décor but not without character – Oriental rugs and a sketched map of the world with origins of beans they carry tagged on it ensure that.

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In the heart of Amsterdam, there are “coffee shops” everywhere. Perfect if you’re hoping to sample some not-so-illegal substances here but not that helpful when you’re after a good cuppa like we are. The Dutch capital is beautiful, with sprawling alleys and circling canals. You’d walk a lot if you’re like us and soon need to rest your tired feet.

In the red light district along the Oudezijdsachterburgwal (Old Side Behind Bastion Wall), a long street running the length of the River Amstel, we discover KOKO Coffee & Design. Both a boutique and a café, KOKO may not seem like the first choice for a caffeine stop but looks can be deceiving.

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Amsterdam isn’t all about canals and “coffee shops” where tourists congregate for their cannabis kicks. About a 15-minute bus ride from the Amsterdam Central bus station is an almost bucolic urban park. Westerpark used to house one of the Dutch capital’s gas extraction facilities but today has a new life as a cultural centre with markets, festivals and young businesses thriving.

One of these new enterprises is Espressofabriek, founded in 2005 by Rick Woertman with a mission of bringing specialty coffee to Amsterdammers. It’s housed in a two-storey red-bricked building, the top floor a roastery and the café on the ground floor. Outside wooden picnic benches offer an al fresco experience when the weather is fine. The best furnishing they have is intangible, of course: the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

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Our first visit to Screaming Beans was two years ago. At the time we were returning from our South American journey and transiting at Schipol Airport. Given eight hours of transit time, we opted to take a 20-minute train to Amsterdam and walk around the city.

We’ve been here several times before so the canals and “coffee shops” were familiar to us. Ah, but now we had the opportunity to track down a real espresso and brew bar. The real stuff – by which I mean coffee, and not other stimulating substances.

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