(Photo was taken by Inge van Beekum)
Merijn Gijsbers is the 2017 Dutch Barista Champion and participant in the WBC finals in Seoul coming November. Since The Coffee Attendant will be bringing him there next week (the 27th of October 2017), it’s high time we got know Merijn a little better.
Merijn Gijsbers: preparing for Seoul
Merijn Gijsbers is world famous in The Netherlands. Since winning the Dutch championships earlier this year, life has been hectic and busy for the 31 year old Barista from Brabant. Just how busy? During this interview Merijn was driving his car to collect some stuff for his run on the championships, that’s how busy.
“Life has been hectic since we won the Dutch finals.” Merijn says. “We knew we wanted to participate in the world championships in Seoul and so there was little to no time for all the extras that come with winning that trophy. When you realize that you’re a participant in the world championships, you also realize that time is not on your hand. But luckily I have a great partner at my side, and my team is a great help as well.”
As we got to talk about his preparation for Seoul, the thing that surprised me the most was the tight training-regime that Merijn and his team hold. Being a perfectionist and someone who gives 100% all day, every day, Merijn works towards Seoul 2017 every day of the week.
“My day starts at around 7 AM with waking up and having some coffee. After waking up I start returning emails, calls and do some troubleshooting on the job when necessary. Around 9 or 10 o’clock my training starts and I practice my championship-run over and over. Ben Morrow, my coach, isn’t always there, but he usually stops by in the afternoon and we practice the runs a little more. Most of the time my day ends around 7 PM and by then I am totally exhausted.”
Merijn Gijsbers: My partner and me are a great team.
Merijn told me that doing one run isn’t just brewing those sets of coffee over and over. It is setting the whole thing up, memorizing his lines, pulling his shots and afterwards cleaning everything up again. His run has been meticulously put together so that he can brew all of his coffee’s and tell his story to the judges at the same time. One mistake during his run means getting penalty points and almost certainly losing the competition. No wonder he is totally exhausted when he arrives at home. It must be tough on his partner as well?
“I am blessed with the way things are going at home. My partner is amazing and supports me throughout this journey. I remember when I won the Dutch championships; we had just bought our new home and my partner had to take on so much of the work. Fortunately we are a strong team. Sometimes it feels awkward knowing that everything revolves around me and my journey towards becoming World Barista Champion, and it makes me want to win it even more. I know my partner has been sacrificing a lot but never holds it against me, and I appreciate it so much”
Merijn Gijsbers: A week of vacation in 15 minutes.
Merijn knows he too has to make sacrifices in order to compete in Seoul in November. Missing out on birthdays, spending time with friends, no vacations, and being away from home so many hours a week, are all part of this mission he has. Sometimes he finds time to relax and take on one of his many other passions: travelling and photography.
“I love to travel and so does my partner. When you are your own boss, your work never stops. It is something I grew up with, because my parents had their own businesses as well. After Seoul we are going to take a long vacation; relax and unwind with my phone turned off.” Merijn says laughing. “I like to do photography as well. We live just outside Eindhoven in a small town and if I step outside my home, it takes only minutes to be in the middle of the countryside. I love taking pictures there; it’s just me and my camera and it feels like a week of vacation in only 15 minutes. I feel completely recharged afterwards.”
Merijn Gijsbers: Never again espresso
The interview came to a close, but I had a little surprise for Merijn in store: a couple of tough questions for him to answer.
– Never again espresso or never again filter coffee?
This is a tough one and I can hardly choose to be honest. If I HAVE to choose, I’d go for no more espresso. Filter coffee is more accessible to the public than espresso. The complexity, the soft flavours…I think it can reach a broader audience. So, I would go for never again espresso.
-Would you rather know everything there is to know about coffee, or start over again and experience everything for the first time again: your first wow-effect, your first perfect brew, becoming a barista etcetera?
This one is easier. I would like to know everything there is to know about coffee instantly. I keep learning every day and I think one will never know everything about coffee. There are so many questions I still today have when it comes to coffee, it would be great to have them all answered.
-More time to train for the World Championships or have every day up to the finals cut in half so it would start sooner?
I would like to have more time to train. There are 60 world class barista’s who will be competing for the title, so it will be a very tough challenge. My team and I have done everything we can to make this a successful event, but still a little more time to practice wouldn’t hurt.
-On Instagram I have taken on a bet with Neill Gouws from Cape Town. If you bring home the title, he owes me a bag of coffee. When the South African Barista wins, I owe him a bag of coffee. Which coffee do you think I should bring him if I lose?
I would go for two options actually: Friedhats Coffee by Lex Wenneker and coffee from Manhattan Coffee Roasters by Esther Maasdam and Ben Morrow. Both have quality coffee and you can’t go wrong with those.
-To close this interview off I have one last question. My website is not just for the people how already know a lot about coffee. It is also for those who are just beginning their coffee-journey. Do you have a tip for those who are just starting to get to know coffee?
The world of coffee is huge and you can never know everything there is. My advice is not to stop tasting and experimenting when you have found a coffee you like. There is bound to be a coffee that’s different but just as special out there. So keep tasting different coffee’s, keep experimenting with different brewing methods and keep reading and talking about coffee.