– Can you please introduce yourself in a few words.
My name is Elmer Oomkens, one of the two founders of White Label Coffee in Amsterdam.
– What’s your story in the coffee industry?
I started out working as a barista after finishing my studies because I liked to do something practical and social. Also, I have always been drawn to entrepreneurship and after working for a couple of months in the coffee industry, I was sure that this was what I wanted to do. Then after meeting Francesco at the Espressofabriek in Amsterdam (one of the first specialty roasters in the city) we clicked on both personal and coffee level which resulted in the founding of White Label.
– When did White Label open and what is the story behind?
So we opened in March 2014. Both of us wanted to start a business to be able to make all the key decisions (like philosophy, equipment, green coffee buying) ourselves. The name White Label refers to a blank sheet, an unwritten piece of paper, which is still open to anything. That’s how we like to approach our guests in the cafe, our wholesale clients and all the partners down the coffee chain. So, from the perspective of openness we like to develop coffee together with everyone involved.
– What’s your specialty and what makes you different?
I think of the openness described in the previous question is something we both really believe in, it’s at our core. Therefore, everything we do is kind of automatically tested against this. I think that results in a kind of a no nonsense approach and we just want to do everything in a way that it feels good for us, and that’s the only way we would like to do it 🙂 I don’t know whether that makes us different from others or not, but it describes us well.
– What was your first coffee experience?
I didn’t really drink coffee till I was about 24 I think. Then I started with really bad Senseo coffee which we had in our student home. Luckily, that developed fairly quickly into a french press and buying a grinder etc.
– What was your best coffee experience?
A washed Yirgacheffe which I drunk at Kees Kraakman, who is a very experienced roaster and helped me a lot in developing myself in the coffee world. That coffee was from the Operation Cherry Red project of Trabocca (a Dutch trader specialised in Ethiopian coffee). It was so complex, fruity, floral, overwhelming. It made me realise what coffee was really about and can be. Still can’t get enough.
– Do you prepare coffee at home ? If yes, what method do you use?
I rarely brew at home. If I do, I use a french press and a Baratza Encore grinder.
– How do you like your coffee? Black, sugar and milk, iced, vietnamese style,…?
I like cupping the best, to have coffees side by side. Nothing beats that experience of the diversity that coffee offers. But still, these rare godshots of espresso.. also so good.
– How would you qualify yourself as coffee drinker (occasional, heavy, addict…)?
Occasional. Of course I drink a lot of coffee for we have to taste a lot to develop our product, but if I am a day off, I just drink one or max 2 cups. They have to be good, but I don’t want to drink a lot, I can’t take the caffeine.
– Have you always been into the coffee industry? If not, what was your previous job?
I was studying psychology of law and almost became a PhD in that field. I loved the subject, but kind of wanted to get out of the computer screen and being all about theory and words written on a paper. Then I started looking for a job in coffee.
– Do you have another passion or a hobby besides coffee?
I have always been into music and did some djing before. But after starting White Label there was not too much space for that anymore, which is fine. In my spare time I mainly hang around with my girl and daughter, also a lot in other coffee places, of course.
– What other place would you recommend, anywhere in the world (coffee or not)?
The countries of origin like Ethiopia, Rwanda and Colombia in specific. Nothing beats travelling to another culture and learning about coffee at the same time.
– What is/are your favorite website(s) to get information about coffee?
Probably sprudge and barista hustle. And have to say I mostly enjoy reading the Standart magazine which is of course not online but print. They really do a good job.
– What would you say to people who don’t know much about coffee?
Haha, nothing in particular. But I am always willing to elaborate on anything if they’re up for it 🙂