Eef’s Coffeehouse: The Pursuit of the Sweet Spot

By Lisa Jesudas

Collage by Maria Mazurek

The familiar scent of espresso wafts through the corridor outside room 770 of the AUC student dorms on the fifth floor. Inside, third-year student and coffee aficionado Eva Nieuwenhuijs is vigorously rotating the handle of a manual coffee grinder while her four-hundred euro, refurbished espresso machine heats up. A light drizzle patters on the window as “Paper” by Lianne La Havas plays from the television speaker across from a grey couch. “Cortado or cappuccino?” she asks a customer. 

Nieuwenhuijs has been running Eef’s Coffeehouse out of her dorm room since January of 2022. She offers takeaway services only and requests that customers bring their own cup. Her official open hours vary during the current intensive period, but she also accepts orders through Whatsapp (+31651993813). The menu consists of a black coffee for 1.50 euros, a latte or a cappuccino for 2 euros, a London fog latte for 3 euros, and filter coffee for 3 euros. Add-ons of oat milk, vanilla syrup, or an espresso shot are an additional 0.50 euros each. Customers may also request latte art of a swan, a rosetta, or a tulip. 

The idea for Eef’s Coffeehouse began as a way for Nieuwenhuijs to meet new people in AUC. She strives to provide some comfort in the community whilst offering good-quality coffee at a reasonable price. As she hands over a freshly made oat milk cortado, chuckling, she says, “Okay, this is a little over-extracted, but usually they’re café quality.” 

Photo by Maria Mazurek

Nieuwenhuijs, a Dutch native from Koudekerk aan den Rijn, began her journey with coffee when she was 18 years old. She waitressed at the Anne & Max café in Leiden, just outside her hometown. As Nieuwenhuijs was finishing her final year of high school, she planned to take a gap year in Australia after graduating and realised the prominence of coffee culture in the Land Down Under. Because she wanted to work as a barista during her year abroad, she learned a few basic skills before leaving the Netherlands.

During her gap year, Nieuwenhuijs worked at Blue Bag café in Melbourne and Hard Coffee café in Brisbane. To deepen her knowledge, she also took a barista course with the St. Ali coffee school in Melbourne. She was becoming obsessed with the coffee production process. “There’s so much science behind it. It’s like a puzzle and I love puzzles!” she says. Nieuwenhuijs explains that there are multiple factors that contribute to the perfect amount of extraction from coffee — the “sweet spot.” 

Photo by Maria Mazurek

On top of her self-made café and studies, Nieuwenhuijs currently works 20 hours per week at Rum Baba, a specialty coffee roaster and café in Amsterdam East that focuses on experimental methods of coffee-making. She is perfecting her own recipes and sweet spots to cater to a variety of palates. Nieuwenhuijs’ often consults her personal coffee taste-testers for various experiments. 

One of her taste-testers and close friend, Julie Rasmussen, regularly visits Nieuwenhuijs at Rum Baba to chat over a coffee in between other customers. After testing different coffee blends, Nieuwenhuijs jots down the combinations that make up Rasmussen’s preferred sweet spot in a little notebook. It turns out that Rasmussen prefers a type of Costa Rican coffee bean over a Kenyan bean. Rasmussen shares that she was not always a coffee drinker, but now, “she [Nieuwenhuijs] is the reason I like coffee,” Rasmussen says. 

Eef’s Coffeehouse was on a slight hiatus in the last academic semester as Nieuwenhuijs found herself particularly busy. She admits, however, that she received very few customers at any rate: “It [Eef’s Coffeehouse] hasn’t been very successful, so that also discourages me,” Nieuwenhuijs says. However, since the most recent intensive period has begun, Eef’s Coffeehouse is back open for business. 

Nieuwenhuijs’ café has not been able to break even. Her most frequent customers are friends and she does not usually charge them. Nieuwenhuijs mentions that Eef’s Coffeehouse has had only one customer who was not her friend prior. 

At the moment, Nieuwenhuijs says she finds herself in a kind of quarter-life crisis. Pursuing coffee full-time used to be her aspiration, but she has recently begun to consider getting a master’s degree in public health, instead of looking for the sweet spot. “I want to be present in the moment,” she says. “It’s so easy to get lost in what we believe is supposed to be a good life.”

Nieuwenhuijs plans to return to Australia with her boyfriend, Fengkai Pronk, after she finishes her studies at AUC. Pronk notes that, no matter what Nieuwenhuijs aims for, “she doesn’t want to be average.” He appreciates how his girlfriend’s determination pushes him to be adventurous and bold as well. “She’s a doer,” he says. 

Peeking under Nieuwenhuijs’ left sleeve is her most recent tattoo: a skeleton reading a book titled “making a living.” In its other hand, the skeleton clutches a cup of coffee.

Photo of Nieuwenhuijs’ skeleton tattoo by Maria Mazurek

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