A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Just like real people, students also like to drink tea and coffee. You’re coming to LU and thinking ‘will I find tea and coffee in The Netherlands??’ The answer is a resounding yes.
In fact, you will find tea and coffee in most rooms of most buildings in the Netherlands. You will find coffee machines in every communal room of the university and in several otherwise empty hallways. If you attend a LU function of any formality, you will find tea and coffee served in LU branded coffee cups. When walking around the supermarket, you can enjoy a complimentary coffee. They give you coffee when you go to apply for health insurance.
In fact, the carpenters who are renovating my next-door neighbour’s house have a coffee machine on their workbench, and I have even seen someone scuba-diving in the canal to inspect the foundations of a bridge – a sight so rare I could not even find a picture of it online – emerge from the water and be handed a cup of coffee brewed on coffee machine plugged into an outlet in a nearby home by a 20 or 30m-long extension cord. Supermarkets sell it ‘take away’, cafes sell it (obviously) and you are usually never more than 100m walk from a cup of coffee anywhere in Leiden or The Hague.
But, call me uptight or picky, I don’t think the coffee is very good! First, it can be very difficult to get transparent information about the source of the coffee you drink. Though some cafes do advertise “Fair Trade” or “Biologische”, there can be very little further information about the trade ethics of coffee. You will also be hard-pressed to find any information about any of the coffee served at the University, so you may want to prepare and bring your own. Second, I’m not a massive fan of the drip machines which are ubiquitous here (although I did buy a drip machine in an attempt to assimilate). Third, it is often kind of…plain. Italian coffee is bold and oily, Turkish coffee is sweet and sticky, Dutch coffee is sort of….watery. Not my favourite cup, but it get’s the job done!
The tea, however, is excellent. There are lots of places to buy interesting loose leaf and bagged tea, and you can easily fine tea sustainably grown in the EU. The Dutch also enjoy a strong mint tea, which is a bunch of mint leaves with boiling water poured over them with honey on the side, but I have always found the servings too small. I would drink a litre of mint tea! Give us a teapot of hot water?!
I have also found it popular among Dutch natives to have a teapot with a small candle underneath to warm the pot – I have never seen this in my life before NL, but apparently it is common around the world?
Anyway, if you are moving to Leiden in February, expect there to be many cups of coffee and/or tea in your future. You almost certainly will have your lectures or tutorials break for a coffee intermission. You will probably find that meetings with a professor or tutor begins with “would you like a coffee?” and you might also find that meeting up with Dutch friends at their house involves many, many cups of tea. You may also find the coffee kind of characterless, as I have.
In any case, there is coffee on the horizon!