We chat with 2019 Dutch AeroPress Champion and first-time competitor in the upcoming World AeroPress Championship about her “accidental win” and what she loves about Holland’s coffee community.
BY KAIE BIRD
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Wendelien van Bunnik-Verver
From the editor: This month, we’ve been interviewing competitors and professionals involved in the upcoming World AeroPress Championship (WAC), which takes place November 24 in London. Today, we chat with Wendelien van Bunnik-Verver, the 2019 Dutch AeroPress Champion.
Wendelien van Bunnik-Verver has been working in specialty coffee for nearly 10 years. After working part-time as a barista in several coffee bars in Utrecht, the Netherlands, she started her full-time coffee journey seven years ago at Single Estate Coffee Roasters, where she is currently responsible for all training and education. In 2016, Wendelien was the runner-up at the Dutch Barista Championship, and this year she won both the Dutch Barista and AeroPress Championships. We spoke to Wendelien about her experience with the tight-knit coffee community in Holland and how she feels as a first-time competitor at the World AeroPress Championship this year.
What are you looking forward to at this year’s championship in London?
I’ve never been to a WAC myself, so I’m pretty excited to discover this. I hope it’s a bigger and even better version of the Dutch event. I’m going over there with the same attitude. I trust my skills and my AeroPress recipe, and I’m going to have fun with the coffee community gathered there. No other brew method I know of has such a quirky cult status in the coffee industry. Literally everyone can use it, so anyone can compete and win in AeroPress Championships. You only need to look at the posters that are made worldwide—pure works of art! Plus, there’s usually a lot of beer and opportunity to dance. What’s not to like?!
What does it mean for you to be able to represent your country on another world coffee stage?
I’ve loved representing the Netherlands in Boston [on the World Barista Championship stage]. I’m so proud of our little country’s coffee community. I’m honoured I get to represent them again, and they’ve made me feel so supported. So I’m going to do the best I can to make the Dutchies proud. I’m going to bring my own tools and I’ve got a couple of variations of my winning recipe with me. I’ll probably adapt at the moment itself to whatever it is I’m tasting and then stick to that recipe.
What made you want to compete in the Dutch AeroPress Championship?
I’ve been to the DAC (Dutch AeroPress Championship) a couple of times in the past, but I’ve never competed. This year, I mainly signed up because I wanted to support the great guys from Keen, whom I used to work with before Single Estate. I loved that they brought the DAC back to life, and since they are from my hometown Utrecht, I could even go by bike.
You have also represented your country as the Dutch Barista Champion on the WBC stage. Have you noticed differences between the two championships? How did winning the DAC feel different?
It’s very, very different. DBC and WBC cost me blood, sweat, and tears for about a year and a half. It took over my life in a fantastic, addictive way. The DAC was the opposite. I went to the event to support my fellow coffee professionals and have some beers and ended up taking the trophy home. It’s definitely a lot more relaxed competition—equally fun to win, though.
The WAC rulebook is definitely a quicker read, which makes it very accessible for every barista to compete in WAC. WBC might be a bit more structured when it comes to the rules, but I’m a firm believer that this WBC competition too is accessible to every barista (or should aim to be). But for some reason, people tend to get turned off by the “seriousness ” of barista competitions. When competing in the DAC, I felt like I had nothing to lose or be embarrassed about, even though I’m the current Dutch Barista Champion. The fact that it didn’t take a year and a half of my life might have helped too.
Also, obviously the AeroPress Championship isn’t as huge an investment to compete in as WBC. But if an AeroPress cost the same as a three-group espresso machine, things might look a lot different.
I feel it’s actually a perfect representation of why I love working in coffee. WBC may be a bit more serious competition-wise, but the goal is the same: sharing knowledge and bringing people together. But if there can be no beers and banter afterwards, what’s the point? I take coffee and competing pretty serious, but I try not to take myself too seriously. That’s what’s so great about the AeroPress competition.
What importance does the Dutch AeroPress event have for the community?
I don’t think you can ever have enough coffee events, but the Dutch AeroPress is always one that brings everyone in the industry together, and for some reason, everyone just seems to love the vibe. The guys from Keen did a great job this year in creating that vibe and organised a great event! They clearly put in so much time and effort, and it definitely paid off. The venue was fun and super easy to reach (even for those who couldn’t come by bike like me). They managed to make the event precisely quirky yet serious yet hilarious yet interesting enough. I went there to support their effort and hang out, and even if I wouldn’t have won, I would have had a great night with my fellow coffee people.
If you weren’t working in coffee, what do you think you would be doing?
That’s easy, because I’ve been a teacher my whole working life. Everything I love to do, I seem to end up teaching it. Sailing, salsa dancing, English language, coffee. I just can’t seem to keep my enthusiasm to myself, haha. I love watching people grow and improve with my help. So if I weren’t working in coffee, I would probably still be an English teacher, trying to inspire kids to make something great out of their lives.
What is something important that you’ve learned and want to share with others in our specialty-coffee industry?
That it is possible to be a “serious” barista without being too serious.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kaie Bird is a coffee professional and event organizer based in Tel Aviv, Israel. She is the brains behind Sharing Tables, a group that connects the specialty-coffee community in Tel Aviv through events and outreach.