This was one café that seemed to be more people than coffee, which is a lovely thing, really. Located across the street from the celebrated Minard Theatre, OR Espresso Bar appears to be the meeting point for all coffee lovers in Ghent. Be it a slowly hand-crafted filter brew or a lusty ristretto, everyone is deep in coffee and conversation.

The people factor seems to be a happy by-product as the original intention was more geeky – to create a “live” coffee lab where founders Tom Janssen and Katrien Pauwels could learn from the coffee they served and further refine their roasts.

When the duo first met, they were both working in IT. Neither had any experience in coffee other than Janssen’s grandfather having been a roaster. So what spurred these two entrepreneurs on were only a passion for the bean and a desire to introduce specialty coffee to Belgium.

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It was a rainy day when we arrived in Ghent. We were spending the weekend in Belgium; our hotel in Brussels doubling as our “headquarters” from which we headed out in all directions in search of good coffee.

We were especially excited about Ghent as our friends Lin Lee and Yew Kheong, the husband-and-wife barista team behind The Red Beanbag in Kuala Lumpur had raved about this beautiful university town and were sure we would love it. A canal boat ride later in the day proved their words to be true and prophetic.

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