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Word of the Day: koffiehuis

Yulia, who is a student in Petra’s intermediate group, wondered what the Dutch name is for a place that sells excellent coffee like Starbucks, Coffee Company, La Mano Maestra or Lola’s. Café, coffeeshop, koffietent….? What do you think?


In a CAFÉ it is possible to order coffee but beer and stronger beverages are in greater demand.

COFFEESHOP? No. Definitely not.
A COFFEESHOP may sell the odd cuppa but people who frequent these shops are focused on soft drugs.

KOFFIETENT? KOFFIEHUIS? Yes, that sounds more like it.
The word KOFFIE goes back to Turkish ‘kahve’ or Arabian ‘qahwa’ which originally meant ‘wine’. After Mohammed’s ban on the use of alcohol the word ‘kahve’ gave its name to the black and hot invigorating stimulant. So it is no surprise that the first coffeehouses were to be found in the Turkish Empire in the sixteenth century. From the very beginning they were places for conversation, games and story telling. In the seventeenth century they spread all over Europe. The French word for coffee ‘café’ gave its name to the place where coffee was served.

Because in French ‘cafés’ alcoholic beverages were served as well, the association with coffee vanished. KOFFIEHUIS, ‘Coffeehouse’, ‘Kaffeehaus’, however, remained exclusively for coffee consumers. The very first coffeehouse in England was set up in Oxford in 1652. America had its first coffeehouse in Boston in 1676. And Vienna in 1683. The culture of drinking coffee was widespread.

It could be argued that the Enlightenment thanked its existence to coffee and the coffeehouse. Coffeehouses were the birthplaces of many schools of philosophical and political thinking. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, coffeehouses were meeting points for writers and artists across Europe.

The word KOFFIEHUIS is not so popular anymore. In today’s The Hague we think of simple meeting places for men of Turkish or Moroccan origin. A COFFEESHOP is the place people go to for soft drugs. A KOFFIETENT is a simple construction which functions as a community centre. You can see them all over The Hague. They usually serve percolated coffee.

But what do you call a place like the Coffee Company where Petra’s son works? Good question. I would favour the word KOFFIEHUIS. If we all use this word again, who knows, maybe it will come into fashion again.

By the way, do you know what the first real KOFFIEHUIS is in The Hague? I mean a place where they pay a lot of attention to the quality of coffee.

It’s the Wiener Konditorei on the Korte Poten in the centre. It was founded by the Prager family in 1934 and became famous for its hot ‘apfelstrudel’, ‘tulband’ and other delicious cakes. In the fifties Mr Prager’s Wiener Konditorei was the first KOFFIEHUIS that made use of an espressomachine. It became so popular that people called it the ‘Haagse huiskamer’ (livingroom of The Hague). Mr Prager died in 1979 but the KOFFIEHUIS Wiener Konditorei is still run by the family. His grandson Roland and his wife will welcome you personally.