11 Jan 2016

2016 Dutch Barista Championship - The Finalists - Merijn Gijsbers

The Amsterdam Coffee Festival is happening in March 2016. It will host the Dutch Barista Championships. Who will get to represent the Netherlands in Dublin during the World Barista Competition? Introducing Merijn Gijsbers, coffee trainer at the Koffiegenootschap and consultant for Alpro.

photo by Thari Parson

How did you prepare for the barista competition preliminary rounds?

Put my social life on hold and trained, trained, trained. Of course under the guidance of my coach Moniek Smit.

How did you choose a coffee bean?

Together with Rose and Liesbeth from Cocoon Coffee we started looking for a coffee that would blow our minds. The Nekisse N2 from Ninety Plus did exactly this!

How did you develop your milk based drink?

I wanted to use the same coffee as I was using for the espresso and signature drink. We started experimenting with cup sizes and shapes, and I began testing different milks. When we found the ultimate combination between the coffee and the milk I decided to use, the drink was set.

How did you develop your signature drink?

I cupped the coffee with Moniek and my friend Vala Stefánsdóttir. We started working with the flavours in our cupping notes. The distinct pineapple taste in my championship-coffee made it clear I had to do something with this ingredient. Then there were also the hop, cacao, liquorice and bergamot notes we wanted to express in the drink. We started geeking around with homemade syrups, foams, sprays, structures, all containing ingredients we wanted to use. Sometimes we discovered great combinations, and sometimes we were less happy with the results.
When we got to the point where we created a drink we actually wanted to finish drinking and prepare immediately again, we knew this was what we were looking for. I served it to some friends and family to hear their thoughts on the drink. My mother in law, Marjolein, LOVED it. That's how I knew my signature drink wasn't just special; it was also approachable for a broad audience.

How do you feel about the change from cappuccino to a milk based drink and did you use this change to your advantage?

I think it's a very smart change. Not just because this links right back to espresso-bar-reality (not every customer ordering a milk based drinks asks for a cappuccino). But also because in this way competitors have access to even more amazing flavours. The coffee I used, for example, had the most potential as a macchiato.

What is the hardest part about competing or preparing to compete?

Time is my enemy.

What is the easiest part?

Competing is hard work, but it's also a lot of fun. In my opinion it's the best way to discover how wonderful specialty coffee can be; tasting different coffees, improve your skills, meeting new people and working with similar minds. Enjoying it was definitely the easiest part.

How are you going to make sure you win the national finals?

Keep on enjoying every bit of the ride!

Anything you would like to add?

If anyone is in doubt if they should compete, I can only say: go for it! I was a bit anxious at first, but looking back I feel I should have started competing sooner!

Read the other interviews with the finalists of the Dutch Barista Competition.

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