Not long before starting her coffee website, Sám Lasaroms wasn't the biggest fan of the beverage. Her passion and exposure to coffee and its culture blossomed out of a chance connection during her time working in finance. From those lunchtime cafe visits, Sám began exploring the local coffee scene and writing up her thoughts online. From review posts, Koffietje grew and expanded into a monthly "coffee box" subscription, as well as becoming an online reseller of brewing equipment, including Acaia products.
Since the inception of the brand, the website now attracts over 25,000 individual visitors per month with 950 kg of coffee beans packaged and shipped to doorsteps across Europe. Sám and her partner Roald have continued the original concept of Koffietje and share insight about great spots to find coffee and more. They have now visited and reviewed over 460 coffee shops.
Read ahead to discover more in the interview.
Read ahead to discover more in the interview.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey in coffee?
So I started drinking coffee when I had my first job in the finance department of an online game company. They were making games marketed towards women. So it was quite a cool place to work and I had a great group of colleagues. Each day, we went down to the cafe below our office to drink coffee. But, I didn't enjoy coffee much at that point. And then around two weeks later, I met a new guy who also worked for the company. I ended up drinking more coffee to spend more time with him and impress him because I was completely in love.
And now we are still together! So from there, I started my coffee journey. We began visiting cafes every weekend. We started traveling to cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam. All with the intention of learning more about coffee. And from all those visits, it developed into a whole business. So it all began for fun; simply sharing tips about coffee bars and where to find great places to drink.You run a monthly coffee box subscription service. How do you decide on the roasters you feature every month?
I started the coffee box project around March 2020. It was around the time COVID began shutting everything down. In the beginning, I didn't make any money. I was no longer able to visit coffee shops for my website. And my savings account was becoming empty. What should I do? Should I continue my business or should I go back to work in finance? That's when I came up with the idea of a coffee box. And so, I built the concept into my website and set up a payment provider.
Before the lockdown, I was investing a lot of time into relationships with other coffee entrepreneurs and businesses. I already knew a lot of roasters based in the Netherlands. I contacted them all about the idea of this online coffee box. So for the first year, I based my boxes around different Dutch cities. I chose three different coffee roasters from within Rotterdam. Then it was boxes based on roasters from places like The Hague, Amsterdam, and Eindhoven. After that year, it became harder to find three new coffee roasters from one Dutch city. So I expanded outside the Netherlands. I created subscriptions based on places like Berlin, London, and Belgium.
And then I thought, since I already have the website payment provider, why not expand into other products? I started selling cups. From there, I moved up into selling brewing equipment including Acaia scales.
Can you tell us about a coffee you recently enjoyed and how it was made?
I recently had some excellent coffee during a research trip to Berlin and Cologne in Germany. For the coffee box sourcing, I visit roasteries and have cuppings with them. We decide together which coffee I will feature in the subscription. The most recent coffee I enjoyed on the cupping table was a specialty non-Arabica roast. It was an incredible floral Robusta. I didn't expect it to be that good.
At home, I make a lot of filter coffee. I go for my Origami dripper most of the time, as well as an AeroPress and V60. They are my three favorite filter methods. I love to brew unique, funky coffees. And then I always drink my coffee from the coffee subscription.You’ve been touring countries to visit coffee shops for some years. Are there any cities or towns you would like to revisit (and why)? Do you have a specific coffee shop you have high on your list to experience?
There is one city on my list I would like to revisit and that is London. On my previous visit there, I definitely wasn't as nerdy about coffee as I am now. I would love to visit the coffee scene over there again because there is so much there to experience. I also love the city; London is such a huge place to explore.
There is a Parisian coffee bar that is high on my list to visit. It's a new space called Substance Cafe. They provide an experience that you can only do once as it can take such a long time to get a seat. They give you a performance akin to a routine from coffee competitions. It's very expensive to drink a cup of tea or filter coffee there.
Many baristas I meet also tell me I need to go to Melbourne, Australia for the specialty coffee scene. It's something I want to experience for myself. I also want to visit the New York coffee scene at least once.
You’ve been a reseller of Acaia for many years! How do you use Acaia at home?
I use Acaia all the time in my daily routine. I cannot live without my White Pearl S. Both my boyfriend and I use the scales at home for our coffee and more. I would be in a panic if I didn't have it.
We recently moved into a new home, and I am looking to create a space where all my setup compliments one another. I'm building it up from Pearl S and Black Fellow ODE grinder.You review coffee shops. When reviewing, you rate them on factors including their suitability for remote work. What are the biggest factors that affect your feeling on a space?
I look at factors including the atmosphere, the service, the coffee served, and the location. I consider the overall experience. But the most important things to me are the hospitality and the coffee beans. Does the barista know what they are serving? Is the space clean? Those factors heavily influence your perception of a cafe. I also look at what time they are open, such as if they are open on the weekends and are very busy. I also make note if the owners have created a workspace for customers. Some cafes even set aside a few tables for remote working. If those tables are separated, it means there is space for others to grab a quick coffee or lunch.
As a coffee shop visitor, have you observed the European coffee scene changing over the last few years?
Yeah, I have seen it change. In 2019, everybody seemed sure they knew what specialty coffee was. And then we asked, what is specialty coffee? Many at that time saw it as coffee with syrup in it. But that is not what specialty coffee is about. And that view is changing now. Customers are getting more conscious about what they eat and what they drink. They are starting to consider what coffee is and where it comes from. So the people who are drinking coffee, now know far more about coffee than before. And the specialty coffee scene is getting bigger and bigger each year. And I can see it growing by 10% now very quickly.
What exciting upcoming projects are coming up for Koffietje.nl?
So our first project is one we are currently running on our website. Each week of every month, we conduct research about coffee and consumers. This is being done through questionnaires onKoffietje.nl. The first two weeks are now completed and focused on the Netherlands. This month, we are asking people about their thoughts and preferences for coffee. We ask questions about how it connects with topics like health, money, and relationships. Each month we plan to focus on a different theme. Project two is, I hope, our own bar in Eindhoven. I want a large space where a lot of people can come. But that is a project set for 2024.
I also want to say one of my goals is to go international and meet other voices around the world. For example, attend and meeting more people from the industry at the many coffee festivals.
Thank you again for the interview, Sám.
All images credited to Koffietje.nl.
Find the Koffietje website here.
And on Instagram here.