Bean of contention

A spate of recent Delta articles in Dutch about the new coffee machines installed on campus and the quality of their products testifies to the absolute importance of the drink in the Dutch national psyche.

Where other cultures are manic about wine, whisky or beer, the Dutch are very particular about their black gold. In the vanguard of the controversy is Dap Hartmann's scathing column in Delta 4 lambasting the quality of the coffee from the machines. The introduction of something new will undeniably arouse all kinds of passions but in this case an anthropologist would have a field day.

Last September witnessed tasting sessions among volunteers who gave it the thumbs down saying that it was too weak and lacking in taste. Has this given rise to a subversive rebellion with people going off the mainstream coffee grid? Another article reports a proliferation of kettles and coffee makers brought in by staff, with concerns about overloading the electricity grid and causing a fire hazard. After the burning down of the old architecture faculty in 2008, presumably caused by a short circuit in a leaking coffee machine and featuring 70cm balls of fire, these may be delicate issues in the campus collective subconscious.

Anyone living for the briefest of spells in the Netherlands realises that the humble coffee bean is a vital fuel for Dutch social interaction. A communal cup of coffee undoubtedly maintains good cheer and keeps them going at their meetings. It has to meet some Netherlandish collective standard, but this can be highly variable. Though it seems in recent years the Dutch have gone more global and have diversified their tastes. They have moved on from their variant of filter coffee, stronger than that available in the US or the UK. In name at least, cappuccinos, lattes and ristrettos and all types of coffees are widely available and this exposure has conditioned expectations.

However, the voices of any international connoisseurs on campus do not seem to be heard. Unfortunately, concerns voiced by fellow coffee loving nations of Italians, Ethiopians and Colombians on campus have not come been forthcoming. Are they avoiding these machines altogether? Is the concept of machine dispensed coffee not worthy of discussion? It just may be possible that they don't regard a liquid dispensed by a machine as coffee.

It seems ironic that at a technical university bulging with presumably state of the art expertise there should be so many complaints about a machine's performance. This is surely a golden opportunity to address the issue, teach the manufacturer a lesson and put TU Delft on the map as the creator of the ultimate coffee machine. Or relax and have a cup of tea instead.