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Stamping “International” On Espresso Coffee

The Golden Coffee Box offers yet another selection of espresso coffees, which, however, they advise can also be used to good results in filter brewers. These too are single origins, including the Papua New Guinea, a Panama ‘La Torcaza’ (from the Jansen plantation), plus the more commonly found triumvirate of Jamaica Blue Mountain, Hawaii Kona and Puerto Rico specialty selections.

But closest to Barend Boot’s heart in this category, and perhaps among all his offerings, are the “Pride of Thailand” and-rarest of rare-real Sumatra Kopi Luwak (the dearest beans in the world that our small friends the paradoxurine marsupials so kindly ingest and naturally ferment). Pride of Thailand, although not yet in the gourmand’s dictionary of precious goodies, is particularly close to the Boot family because they have played a central part personally in developing this new estate origin, in conjunction with agronomy departments in universities in both the Netherlands and Thailand. The company has started selling espresso pods as well, offering a selection of four origins: Panama, Haiti, Java and now, Pride of Thailand as well.

Not surprisingly, The Golden Coffee Box retail store itself is something different. Besides the ongoing aroma and soundtrack emitting from the Golden Box roaster, there is the hum of various shop grinders-four of these in all to serve the constant stream of customers- including three Mazzer grinders for the espresso coffees and a Malhonig for the larger orders.

Of unusual note to the espresso enthusiast, above the grinders are memos to the staff, reminding them of which particular grind to use for the various kinds of home espresso machines on the market. They are trained to ask the client what model is to be used and to grind accordingly. Boot insists that different espresso machines can have their own particularities as to grind requisites.

The shop also serves espresso to those clients who wish to taste before they buy. For this, the store employs a La Marzocco single group espresso machine along with a smaller ECM unit.

The front of the establishment is dedicated to sales, espresso tasting, and a quite impressive and varied array of almost every accessory that exists for espresso-from espresso cups of eight sizes and shapes, including some truly delicate ristretto cups from Biesse Gift in Italy, to all sorts of espresso implements and small kitchen coffee makers, non-electric and electric.

The back room is yet another surprise, for it displays a truly large range of espresso machines and grinders for home, office or low volume out-of-home use. The espresso machine offering is unusually eclectic. Boot offers 12 espresso machine models by Quick (now made by Brugnetti), Rancilio, Saeco, FrancisFrancis, La Pavoni, Vibiemme, Jura, Gaggia, Moka Express (a new Spanish manufacturer) and Wega (the Starlet units for pods). He seems to love them all, but carries the Quick model with him to his HORECA clients to demonstrate for them what kind of settings, grinding and dosing he would use himself to get optimal results from Golden Box coffees.

Looking at his amazing shop and display room, Boot seems a bit wistful in confessing that The Golden Coffee Box is growing. He seems a bit apologetic about it, in fact. “Well, we couldn’t really survive on the shop alone in such a small town as Baarn (the Dutch city where the family began its operations),” he says.

In fact, for a small company The Golden Coffee Box has done rather well in spreading the news of its coffee. The shop in Baarn is truly the “crema” on its espresso. The real business rests on supplying fresh coffee on a weekly basis to 12 specialty food stores in the Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam regions, plus 75 upscale HORECA establishments in the same areas, and to some 500 mail order customers across the Netherlands.

Except on demand, all Golden Box coffees are packed as whole beans in plain golden foil bags. Boot recommends that clients buying large quantities at a single time freeze his coffee, admitting the idea is controversial. He has experimented himself, he explains, and finds that -20°C holds coffee flavor without problem for some time.

“Actually, from a quality standpoint it’s the grinding and brewing water temperature problems that are slowing down our growth,” says Booth.

Such a company as his can only grow, at least to his satisfaction, by keeping its reputation for extraordinary coffees that can be sold with confidence at extraordinary prices. Boot coffees easily sell at more than twice the going average price in the Dutch retail sector. The prized Kopi Luwak can fetch as much as 35 Guilders per cup in some restaurants on his client list-that’s something more or less like $15 per cup. This means he spends considerable time working with his clients to help them prepare espresso coffee well, finding again and again that the grinding and water temperature factors prove most problematic to control once the coffee is out of his hands.

“Kopi Luwak by itself is demanding,” Boot notes. “It needs special attention in brewing. It should only be brewed after the water temperature has been cooled down sufficiently, so that extraction takes 40 seconds for a ristretto.”

Technicalities aside, The Golden Box bustles with projects and ideas. Boot says his problem is not to seek growth but keep it under control. He finds people ready to turn on to the best coffees, and is prepared to pay for the pleasure.

One of his current projects is the creation, in cooperation with Kees Raat, a talented young Dutch chocolate confectioner, of truly refined coffee bonbons. Booth and Raat together are now producing espresso chocolates, based on a Java origin. The project has been a long challenge in coming to market due to the difficulty of getting the right balance between the espresso and the chocolate so that the disparate tastes merge yet also keep their own identities. Fortunately, the chocolates have proven to be a highly sought-after delicacy, so the company is now expanding the line with a Panama-based espresso.

All the while, during the talk and the flow of customers, the small golden coffee box roaster is working away tirelessly at its roasting job. It is very hard to ignore, even though somewhat lost because of its size amidst the dazzling espresso theater in action around it. Is it only for show? “Not at all!” exclaims Barend Boot, almost shocked by the question. “We still roast our most exclusive coffees in those golden boxes.”

Tea & Coffee - November/December 2000
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