For a company named Single Estate—which built its reputation on the belief that the best-tasting cup is one particular coffee cultivated from one particular farm or cooperative at a time—its founders were contrastingly relaxed about where to establish their own estate in the form of a flagship cafe.
Co-owners Patrick Groenewold and Bas Burghoorn were surprisingly postcode-agnostic, giving their realtor a long lead to sniff around various big cities in the Netherlands. It took two years, but they finally found the two-story, 300-square-meter Jugendstijl-façaded corner shop in a central neighborhood in The Hague.
Although the venue opened this past September, it is the fruit of labor by a business that began in 2007. That was when Groenewold, a chef-turned-coffee consultant, and Burghoorn, a business-schooled sales-and-marketer, partnered to launch Single Estate Coffee Roasters.
“Usually people start the other way around. They do a bar and then start to roast, but we focused on roasting,” notes Groenewold. The roastery’s location a 20-minute drive from The Hague in the village of Maasdijk, “tucked away in an industrial area,” led to their being “a bit more invisible,” he acknowledges, but did not prevent their becoming one of just a few successful medium-sized specialty roasters in the Netherlands.
Still, Single Estate proves singular in several ways. The coffees are always single-origin—“I totally understand the concept of blending but I don’t like it. I think coffee should be good enough to stand on its own,” says Groenewold—and 85% are considered direct trade. For Groenewold, that means traveling to origin himself and dealing one-on-one with the same producers year after year.
And then there are the stars—of two sorts. Included among the six-member roasting team are luminary baristas Wendelien van Bunnik-Verver and Jonatan Scheeper. Van Bunnik-Verver, who was doubly decorated in 2019 as Dutch Barista Champion and World AeroPress Champion, serves as Single Estate’s head of training. Head roaster Scheeper holds the distinction of Dutch AeroPress Champion 2017 and co-founder of the since defunct but memorably forward-thinking Amsterdam micro-roaster Headfirst. Plus, included among their couple hundred B2B clients are six Michelin-starred restaurants (FG Restaurant’s Modbar made Sprudge news in 2016).
“I know how they think, how they work, what they want,” says Groenewold of the high-level restaurateurs. Nearly 20 years ago, before taking his first job in coffee—running a student cafe at Utrecht University—Groenewold was a culinary school graduate who cheffed across various Michelin-starred restaurants in the Netherlands. He left the industry after realizing that the only aspiration left would be to open his own restaurant, but knew it would demand “eight days a week” of work.
Open seven days a week, Single Estate’s flagship offers a changing selection of espressos and filter coffees, sweet and savory homemade croissants, and simple warm dishes, such as shakshuka and mushroom risotto. The plan is to “focus on staying seasonal,” but Groenewold foresees possible expansion in terms of the menu as well as accommodations. The current space for 40 guests could double if seating were extended to a back area currently used for food preparation.
The massive counter, in a sober slate-toned terrazzo, shows off the glistening chrome taps of a Modbar Espresso AV and the ever-illuminated ring of a Marco Mix 3, ready for brewing filter coffees, via V60 or AeroPress, and teas from Kiona Malinka’s Crusio line. The cafe has four full-time staff. The Belgian-trained pastry chef displays samples of her output du jour in a custom-made glass box. It would seem more likely to exhibit bijoux than baked goods, though immediately signals to customers that this is not “the next bar with banana bread and muffins—been there done that. We have plenty of those already in the country,” Groenewold says.
He speaks in the same confidently opinionated yet gracious way about the venue’s interior. “A super-clean Scandinavian look, I like it personally, but it’s not welcoming if you feel like you’re sitting in the waiting chambers at the doctor,” Groenewold admits. The Amsterdam-based architecture firm ninetynine (notably responsible for making over the Dutch chain Coffeecompany’s Oosterdok flagship and other branches) thoroughly fulfilled Single Estate’s brief for “well-designed but still comfortable.”
“We wanted something warm, but it had to be true to us, so they based the colors on those seen at coffee origin,” says Groenewold, whose sweater worn on the bright late fall morning we spoke matched perfectly with a moss-green accent wall.
The architect-designed oak benches are softened by leather cushions in a city-roast brown for the lumbar support and a cascara red for the rump support. The in-built side tables, perhaps in a hue of still-ripening cherries, are cleverly modular, able to be lifted to standing height or removed altogether.
Upstairs, the training center has floor-to-ceiling interior windows. Here visitors get the chance to practice shots on a La Marzocco Linea Classic as well as literally look over the shoulders of the baristas below. Bunnik-Verver and Scheeper also take a couple of weekly bar shifts.
Overall, the place’s thoughtful layout simultaneously encourages intimacy and transparency. Groenewold describes recently experiencing that feeling during a call with producer Henrique Cambraia of Fazenda Samambaia estate. “We launched the Brazilian anaerobic yesterday,” he says, explaining how the physical space for both patrons and products let him share, in real-time, “the reactions of two guests sitting at the counter.” It was “so rewarding, just to have such a close connection with the whole chain,” he adds. “The joy of modern times.”
But it is the joy, too, of Single Estate’s appreciation for coffee’s roots and routes—from single estates to multiple homes, restaurants, and cafes everywhere.
Karina Hof is a Sprudge staff writer based in Amsterdam. Read more Karina Hof on Sprudge.