Coffee, the prize-winning black gold of Groningen

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By Antonella Serrecchia & Frans Snackers

The university city of Groningen is one of the best places in the Netherlands to get a coffee, according to a well-known national coffee competition.

In 2015, only two Groningen coffee places got into the Misset Horeca Koffie Top 100. This year, six espresso bars entered the competition, with four making it into the ranking, and one, Black and Bloom, winning the first prize.

Despite being a relatively small city, Groningen has positioned itself as the fifth city in terms of the number of coffee places reaching the top 100, between The Hague and Rotterdam.

Trends show that the coffee market in the city is growing bigger and better. This year, nine brand new places opened in Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat, recently dubbed the “coffee street”, which runs between two university buildings.

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The Misset Horeca Koffie top 100 cup exhibited in Black & Bloom

The success of coffee in the city is due to the presence of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and its students, according to Misset Horeca’s editor Demian van de Reijden. This follows a general trend showing that “university cities usually do well.” While he wouldn’t use the word “booming”, he did confirm the number of espresso bars in Groningen is rising fast.

Marcel Scholtalbers, owner of PS! Coffee & Bakery also says that the closeness to the university helps. It was indeed, one of the main reasons why he opened his store where it is: “students know what’s good coffee.” Despite the growing competition, he believes the rising number of coffee bars opening in the city is ultimately positive as it creates a good image.

On the contrary, Gerben Engelkes from Black and Bloom does not believe students are the driving factor for the increase in quality of the coffee bars in Groningen, stating that students will always choose quantity over quality. Instead, he assumes that the growing competition in the city is due to a new regulation that allows any retailer to install an espresso machine and serve coffee. This pushes coffee places to increase their quality to stand out from the rest.

While persistent rumours still remain about big coffee roasting companies influencing the outcome of the competition, which is one of the main reasons Mr. Scholtalbers decided not to join this year, Mr. van de Reijden denied this. Mr. Engelkes corroborated Mr. Scholtablers’ suspicion, but still claimed this competition to be the best-organized one.

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