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Dutch Golden Box still thriving.

The founder and original owner of the Golden Box is now engaged on a month-long research program for the Indonesian government in Sulawesi. Back in the Netherlands, the little coffee business he founded in the small town of Baarn is doing well in the capable hands of his sons, Willem and Barend. In fact, reports Richard Clark, The Golden Coffee Box is doing even better than it was when Jacob Boot and his wife Marianne were running it as one of the most distinguished of all Dutch coffee shops. True, there have been changes, but they have been conservative ones. The shop itself is marginally tidier and there is now a proper office in what used to be a general storeroom. The Coffee Museum, which was Marianne's special pride, is growing.

But these are just externals. The range of coffees is as awesome as ever: seven of the best straight Arabicas, seven of the best espresso roasts, and two excellent decafs. They are all roasted on a middle-range Probat and sold in gold-colored 500g loose packs. What has not changed however, is the dedication that the two brothers bring to the business which they took over at the end of last year.

The tiny Coffee Box still stands at a comer near the town's post office, and a steady stream of postal customers seem to gravitate naturally towards the shop, but its real secret is the stream of customers who travel, what are in Dutch terms, considerable distances to buy their coffee at the tiny store.

Moreover, there are now many more customers than there used to be. Willem Boot, who, like his brother Barend, has worked in shop shop ever since he left school, spent two years with Probat's U.S. center in Burlingame, CA, and came home when his parents decided to retire. The knowledge of the specialty trade he acquired in the U.S. gave him ideas about how to improve the service in Baarn, and they have already paid off.

"The Netherlands has become a bland country for coffee," said Willem. "Go into a supermarket and what do you find? You won't see coffee, you won't smell it - until you open the vacuum pack. To be blunt, the Netherlands has largely become dead to the real coffee product."

He puts the decline down originally to the invention of the vacuum-pack in the 1960's, which allowed coffees to linger on the supermarket shelves for months. Nowadays, he reckons, there are no more than 20 coffee roasters left, including giants like Douwe Egberts who totally dominate Dutch trade, roasting many thousands of kilos an hour, compared to the tiny 10-kilo roaster that the Golden Box uses.

It was his consciousness of the similarities of the roasts which were being provided by the big coffee companies he worked for that first drove Jacob Boot to set up the Golden Coffee Box. It is a sentiment his sons now share.

"We're trying to make our coffee a living item once more," says Willem. "There is too much middling coffee around, too many bland blends. We're trying to prove to our customers that there is more choice available, and that coffee is better when it has been freshly roasted.

And Barend Boot defends the slightly higher prices that the shop charges. "We have the skill, the knowledge to choose the best beans on offer, and people are prepared to pay that much more for the quality they know they are getting. After all, we know that we're supplying truly dedicated coffee drinkers."

Nor does the brothers' coffee evangelism end there. During his time in the U.S., Willem ran scores of seminars for specialty roasters, and some of their bigger brothers, and he is now doing the rounds of groceries and similar stores, promoting the Golden Box's beans, and especially the espresso beans which are currently finding huge popularity in the Netherlands.

The company is also adding two new types of beans to its list: the Pride of Thailand, discovered by Jacob Boot during his more recent travels, and a Kenyan specialty of similar quality.

It's refreshing to report too, that all this effort is paying off. Overall sales are up by a full 70%, and turnover has risen by 60% in the months that the two brothers have been running the enterprise.
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Title Annotation:brothers Willem and Barend Boot expand shop parents Jacob and Marianne founded in the Netherlands
Author:Clark, Richard
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:May 1, 1993
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Next Article:Probat unveils historical coffee museum.

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