Editor’s note: As we approach the beginning of the 2014 World Barista Championship, which takes place in Rimini, Italy, June 9–12, at the SCAE’s World of Coffee event, we would like to introduce you to the National Barista Champions who all worked incredibly hard to earn a position in this preeminent coffee contest. Profiles of all 54 competitors will appear on Barista Magazine’s blog between Monday, June 2, and Monday, June 9, and can all be accessed under the category header “WBC 2014 Rimini.”
BARISTA CHAMPION OF THE NETHERLANDS
Coen van Sprang
Bocca Coffee Roasters
Coach: Yakup Aydin
About me: I am 29 years old and living in beautiful Amsterdam together with my girlfriend. We both like good food so we often hang out in food markets and go to restaurants when we have the chance. I also can’t wait to get my golf clubs again when WBC preps are over. Playing golf for hours with friends, walking in the forest, complete silence only the sound of birds singing. [For the past year and a half, I have been] working for Bocca Coffee Roasters after working for years in an espresso bar as a barista and shop manager. I really wanted to learn so much more about coffee itself, and this is the best decision I made. I am really happy that Amsterdam is taking off now, coffee wise. Many shops and small roasters are opening their doors. More and more people get aware of what specialty coffee is. In 2012 I [competed at] the World Barista Championships. Last year, I took a year off to get some new inspiration. I did—I went to Melbourne which was a great experience. Right now I am so excited to compete again and show my story and routine to everybody.
How many years have you worked with coffee or in the coffee industry?
Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
After high school it was difficult for me to find out what to study. I was 18 years old and started to work for a espresso bar. For a year I had the time of my life! After the year of working hard and partying hard, I finally started to study sports management. That did not work out and I went back to the espresso bar. I worked myself up as a manager and started [doing] barista competitions. After [placing] 3rd the first year I was competing, I became a national champion the year after. Shortly after, I managed to find a job at Bocca Coffee Roasters. Mainly I focus on green buying, quality control, and training colleagues. I love it!
How did you get started in coffee?
I got started when working in an espresso bar in 2003. After 7 years, in 2010, I started barista competitions for the first time. From that point I really got into specialty coffee, meeting other baristas, joining workshops, visiting origin countries. From that point, there was no way back.
What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
When I was invited by a competitor to come and watch my first Dutch Barista Championship. It was in Rotterdam in an old warehouse. There was that stage, the spotlights and baristas telling the most beautiful stories with their passion for coffee. This was my new goal. I wanted to become Dutch Barista Champion! That competitor, Yakup, is now my coach and barista-buddy for years.
What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
On a local scale I would like to see more micro roasters and specialty coffee bars in Amsterdam. And even more consumers who are interested and have the understanding of how quality coffee can be. On a national scale I would like to see an even more organized SCAE chapter. We are going the right way in Holland and I believe it can only get better. More certified judges, better communication, and more passionate baristas who will compete. On a world scale I hope the climate will change so we can grow coffee in our own gardens in Holland around 2018.
Name a barista you admire, and why:
Charles Babinski. This guy competed already so many times in the USBC and became 2nd at least three times. Joining the USBC must be like competing in a WBC with all those regionals and pre rounds. Exhausting and stressful, but he must have had fun while preparing for all those routines he did. He deserves to become once a national barista champion of the United States.
Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
I was really overwhelmed by Blue Bottle in San Francisco and Proud Mary Coffee Roasters in Melbourne. At both places people were waiting easily 20 minutes for their favorite cup of coffee. Not because they lacked service—the places were overloaded with people! Every customer was really patient and knew it was worth waiting. Amazing!
Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
Central America! I never went there so I am excited to see how the farmers produce their coffee over there. I am wondering if there are big differences with the farms I visited in Africa. And I like to taste some different varieties from the same farms over there. Never did that.
What are your interests outside of coffee?
I love to discover new restaurants. Take the time to eat and drink with friends. Playing golf if the sun is shining. Traveling around the world, seeing things you only saw in movies before. Get rest on a lazy beach, naked.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
At this moment I am very happy to work for Bocca. It would be great to improve the quality at Bocca a lot more the next coming years. Structuring the green buying, educating our customers really well and opening a few cafes would be great!
Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
I would like to thank Yakup [for getting] me involved in coffee. Henk, for his trust in me and Yakup for all those years even as this years sponsors. Bocca for roasting endless coffee to find the best roast profiles for the competition and for giving me the opportunity to become national champion for the second time in my life. My brothers for helping me out while training and backstage during the competitions. My parents for all their help and traveling with me where ever I competed. And my girlfriend for her endless patience for every time I said it was my last, when it was not. And of course all those other people who helped me out with something, you know who you are. Without you, no WBC for me. Thanks.