Over a decade ago, Paul Sharo began his coffee journey in Rotterdam. He began venturing into coffee roasting while already involved in the restaurant industry. Inspired by his moniker, ‘the man with glasses’, Paul launched Man Met Bril Koffie and began roasting coffee under an arch at an old train station.
Little did he know this modest start would evolve into a transformative force in the city’s specialty coffee landscape.
Exploring specialty coffee in Rotterdam
The story of coffee in the Netherlands began in the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company established trade relations with countries in the East Indies.
Fast forward to 2023, and the specialty coffee culture has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis. Today, Rotterdam has more speciality coffee shops than its illustrious neighbour, Amsterdam.
The Man Met Bril Koffie brand has flourished, and after adopting a flexible wholesale approach, the company maintains solid local ties with loyal customers. Man Met Bril Koffie currently caters to between 150 and 250 wholesale clients, ranging from coffee bars to hotels and restaurants.
With this growth came a steadfast commitment to sustainability. Man Met Bril Koffie’s philosophy on packaging challenges industry norms and is a testament to its dedication to environmental consciousness.
The straightforward design challenges the trend of excessive packaging in the speciality coffee industry and minimises waste. Man Met Bril Koffie uses black side gusset coffee bags that feature the brand’s name in a bold white font across the front. Bands of various colours reach over the top of the coffee bags to indicate whether the product is for the brand’s tasting boxes, or if it is a blend. This information is also printed on customised coffee bags sleeves, which slip over each package.
“As business owners, we need to take care of the world around us,” Paul says. “When everyone started moving towards coffee packaging that featured zip locks and things like that, I thought it amounted to extra plastic and extra waste.”
“So, we came up with a way of using the least amount of packaging as possible and not make it more than it is,” he adds.
Building the world’s first coffee hotel
Man Met Bril Koffie plans to take Rotterdam’s coffee scene to unprecedented heights. The brand has announced its intention to open the world’s first coffee hotel in the summer of 2024.
Currently, the brand has a coffee roastery, bar, and restaurant that features a spacious terrace overlooking the Rotte River. The hotel, however, aims to be a hub where coffee enthusiasts, professionals, and curious minds converge.
“We’re going to expand the international coffee community by bringing the best baristas and roasters to the coffee hotel where they can live temporarily and exchange and expand knowledge with us,” the brand’s website states.
The hotel spans five adjacent buildings and will combine social rental housing with hotel rooms and studios. The coffee bar will serve fresh, organic, and original dishes with a rotating menu while the hotel experience includes a restaurant, adding a distinctive touch.
The Coffee Residency Programme: An unprecedented opportunity
The heartbeat of this revolutionary venture is the brand’s unprecedented Coffee Residency Programme. The initiative invites global coffee professionals to immerse themselves in the vibrant essence of Rotterdam for months, fostering cultural connections and knowledge exchange.
Paul explains that the idea of the hotel is to create a deeper connection with coffee. “We do that in micro-levels,” he says. “For example, every room will have its own brewing method. However, the most exciting thing about the hotel will be the Residency Programme, which has never been done before.”
The Residency Programme aspires to attract global players within the coffee industry and offer a distinctive and immersive coffee experience. Beyond this, the Programme will provide baristas, roasters, servers, and even chefs with accommodation and a salary.
“We hope to exchange knowledge, share experience and cultures. In the meantime, residents get to enjoy a new city and meet like-minded people.” The ultimate goal is to foster cultural connections, exchange valuable knowledge, and share experiences to create a global community centred around the shared love for exceptional coffee.
Additionally, the brand is offering applicants of its Residency Programme the chance to undertake a road trip. During a two-month journey through Europe, Man Met Bril Koffie aims to host mini-events and serve coffee while spreading the word about the Residency Programme.
In specialty coffee, location is key
Located along the picturesque Vijverhofstraat near the river in Rotterdam, the location of Man Met Bril Koffie is a captivating blend of history and modernity. The roastery was built in an area that once housed employees of the old Heineken factory, which reflected a blue-collar neighbourhood atmosphere.
As Rotterdam grew, Heineken moved the brewery, resulting in changes to the community. Furthermore, for tourists exploring the area, the remnants of the old Heineken factory site offer a glimpse into Rotterdam’s industrial past, contributing a unique character to the area.
The historic charm of the architecture resonates with the city’s commitment to tradition and innovation, providing an incredible backdrop for visitors strolling along the riverside.
Wandering through the Vijverhofstraat area, tourists will find more than just beautiful scenery; they’ll discover a cultural hub. Charming cafes and local shops dot the streets, inviting exploration and the chance to indulge in Rotterdam’s vibrant culinary scene.
The proximity to cultural attractions and a riverside walk add to the allure of this locale, all five minutes away from downtown. Essentially, this location ensures that Man Met Bril Koffie has become an integral part of the rich tapestry of experiences that define Rotterdam for the curious and adventurous tourist.
Specialty coffee roasters around the world are consistently developing innovative marketing, business, and roasting techniques. Read more about how Firelight Coffee implemented a coffee bag return programme, Anticonquista Café’s cold brew coffee bottle return programme, and how Tigray Coffee is reducing waste in Nigeria through biodegradable coffee bags.
Dive into our Community Section to learn more about how specialty coffee roasters around the globe are evolving their businesses.
Images courtesy of Man Met Bril Koffie