Mogador – Haarlem (NL)
Haarlem’s only place that knows what it’s doing
One of the things I love the most about living in The Netherlands is that it’s so compact. In larger capitals you’re lucky if you can get into the next postcode in the same time that it takes you to get from Amsterdam to Haarlem. And even though Haarlem is often seen as a bit of sattelite town to the Dutch capital it is a perfectly beautiful little town in its own right that has a great buzz about it. Heading there for a little daytrip is obviously even more fun when you know you’re out to find great coffee, and that was exactly my mission.
A few weeks earlier I had received a really nice email by a Kiwi chap called Adam who had come across my blog and invited me to come check out the specialty coffee shop he was working at. “I’d love to show off my Flat White making skills to you,” he told me. A Kiwi making Flat Whites in Haarlem? I had to go.
As my little Google maps dot guided me through the buzzing main square and further off towards the aptly named Botermarkt (Butter market) I passed plenty of coffee places that looked like they were really keen to jump on the specialty coffee bandwagon but had somehow missed it by a few inches. On almost every table I saw giant glasses of Latte Macchiatos, probably flavoured with horrific things such as hazelnut or Amaretto. I was starting to get a bit concerned that Mogador would also be a bit of a disappointment and that maybe, Haarlem was just a quaint town with really bad coffee.
Yet, when I finally spotted the place on the far end of the busy market, set in a lovely corner store with stained glass windows, I knew my previous fear was (partially) ungrounded. Adam was behind the La Marzocco Linea, whipping up coffees for lots of waiting customers. When see saw me he immediately went: “ALEX! – more like eeeleeex – you made it!” “G’day mate”, I said. “How’s the coffee today?” “Busy busy busy,” he replied before putting down a Cappuccino on the counter and shouting: “Een Cappuccino alsjeblieft!”
The place was truly rammed at this hour and the lovely weather outside made sure that all seats and benches were taking up by coffee hungry locals and/or foreigners living in Haarlem, or tourists like me.
In terms of decoration the place looked a bit spartan save for a few photographs and a single racing bike on the wall. What is up with that, I wondered? This was definitely not the first time I’ve seen a single racing bike on the wall of a specialty coffee shop and it always somehow seems slightly random. Until you come to understand that hipsters love their racing bikes (they’re all the rage in Amsterdam) and then it all makes sense.
“Having a Flat White mate?” Adam called from behind the Espresso machine. Yep! Bring it!
Adam quickly prepared me a lovely coffee and while he was at it introduced me to Youssef, the owner of Mogador. I asked him what the local coffee scene was like, to which he said: “It’s practically non-existent. If you’re talking about specialty coffee anyway. But since we opened a few months ago things have started to change. It’s definitely no Amsterdam but it might get there some day.” I pointed at a Chemex and V60 that were sort of hidden at the end of the bar and asked him if anyone ever ordered slow coffee. “Hardly ever. People here love their Latte Macchiatos, haha.”
The Kiwi who followed his Dutch girlfriend back to Holland a few months ago said to me: “You know if you don’t have any competition, you have no reason to step up your game. That’s why in New Zealand and Australia there are so many incredible coffee places. People know that if they start to slack, customers will just go somewhere else. Now that we’re here, I think people are starting to notice the difference. They still want their Latte Macchiatos but at least they’re getting really good ones.”
Mogador chose to team up with Bocca because Youssef felt like they are they only coffee roasters who are taking coffee seriously. On the grinder you’ll find their Sidamo and regularly changing single origins based on what Adam and Youssef feel like treating their customers to. I do wonder how many people actually know what they’re drinking and whether they have ever asked Adam or Youssef to tell them more about the coffee. My suspicion is: probably not. It’s funny how a city that is literally a stone’s throw away from Amsterdam’s dazzling third wave movement, still seems to be in tiny baby shoes when it comes to putting great coffee on the map. “We have a lot of housewives here mate. Gives you an idea,” Adam told me with a wink.
While there’s still plenty to do to help Haarlem’s nacent coffee scene onto its feet, Mogador is already looking to expand elsewhere. In a few weeks they’re opening their first store in Amsterdam’s Magna Plaza. “It’s going to be a tough but interesting venture. I’m really looking forward to it,” Youssef told me as I got ready to head out and enjoy a bit more of Holland’s Wisteria Lane.