You might have heard the good news: we're having a baby! Well, a book baby, that is. After years of bringing you the best of the best of travel tips on the web, we decided to take pen (or printing press) to page & bring you an amazing, practical, beautiful guidebook to the city that is nearest & dearest to our heart. Which city is that, you ask? Why, Amsterdam of course! So now it's time for the countdown to begin.
As our publishing date grows ever closer, we want to give you some sneak peeks into what's to come to get you as excited as we are. Our book is nothing without the incredible shops, restaurants, bars & businesses we love, so it's important to us that you get to know them a bit as well. That's why, until the launch of our book, we are going to be bringing you interviews with the inspiring founders of some of our very favourite spots.
Today, we were lucky enough to pick the brain of Jeff Flink, the man behind the masterpiece that is T O K I. As it is one of the most beautiful interiors in the city as well as one of the very best places to get coffee, we could barely contain our excitement when we got to chat with him. Keep reading to find out what makes this design-minded coffee fiend tick.
gloobles: Hi Jeff! Thanks so much for taking some time to chat with us. First off, can you tell us what inspired you to open such a wonderful place?
Jeff: I think it basically started from wanting to build my own little world. It's something I had already thought about when I was still in college, but at that time, I wanted to discover the world & what it had to offer. After working in advertising for about eight years, I knew it was time. I had always collected things I appreciated over the years & dreamt & talked about my own place. Being a person who loves to travel & spend my time in a place where I can get a cup of coffee where I can feel & absorb what a space has to offer, I can't really put my finger down on that one thing that inspired me. It was a feeling of wanting to create my own space with great vibes & good quality products.
gloobles: It was basically something from within that compelled you to open T O K I, from the sounds of it. Now could you tell us how you & Naiara - better known as chef NANA - met & what it's like to work together?
Jeff: T O K I was running for about two years without a kitchen. I had been thinking about & collecting ideas for food, but it wasn't a focus for me. Additionally, I knew that if I wanted to have a kitchen, it would have to be spot on & long term. I think somewhere around mid-2017, Naiara came to T O K I or emailed me for a T O K I x chef NANA popup. We had a couple of good talks & decided to commit to a partnership where she would take on the kitchen. I couldn't be happier, as working with her is a real pleasure. She's a warm soul & an inspiration, & her approach to food & concepts is pure & unique. Plus, her ability to constantly learn & grow is a great example of how to get shit done. Love it.
gloobles: The perfect partnership. So the location is really lovely. Why did you pick that spot?
Jeff: By early 2014, the idea of wanting to open my own place became more clear for me. As I was still working full-time, I decided to pull back to four days a week so that I could spend that extra day looking into locations & working on an actual plan, but one day a week was just not enough time to get things done. So I decided to quit my job & give myself the time to go all in, & it was the best decision. I was free & could put my ideas down on paper. Although I'd seen over 30 locations, none of them felt like 'the one'. When my idea was basically finalised, a friend of mine told me about this location that was available. Funnily enough, I had walked past a week before & wondered if this could be the place. It was a perfect fit - a beautiful corner tucked away in the Jordaan, a spot where I could slowly build my world. T O K I time.
gloobles: Wow, it must have been terrifying to quit your full-time job! We can't even imagine. Can you break down the name for us?
Jeff: T O K I is Japanese for 'time'. I wanted a place where people could hang out & take the time they need, whether it be a whole day or just 15 minutes, whether it be with a book, friends or just you. I wanted people to be able to kick back & have a good time.
gloobles: It most certainly has that feel. You can linger or dash in & out, & it always feels like the right place. We're pretty obsessed with the design & atmosphere at T O K I. What was your vision for how it would look?
Jeff: Thank you! Appreciate the love. I did all the interior design myself. This was part of the creative process & incorporated the things I had collected over the years. I wanted a clean, light space with a retail feel to it. Playing with different materials was important to me to be able to create a clean yet comfortable environment. Combining Marmoreal from Max Lamb with a couch from Stephen Kenn, stools by Frama CPH & camping chairs from Snow Peak with a very blue floor & warm bamboo...I still love it. Comfortable, high quality pieces that stand out & give the space a unique feel that is clean & warm at the same time. All that along with our customers & T O K I team give us the beautiful vibe we have going on.
gloobles: That's exactly it! Clean & warm. It's a difficult balance to achieve. Could you tell us more about the terrazzo? We feel like you started a trend!
Jeff: I can't take any credit for falling for beautiful designs & using them. Max Lamb & Brent Dzek are doing amazing things, & they are the ones behind this warm manmade Marmoreal. Nothing but love for what they do.
gloobles: We are honestly thinking of copying you. We could envision it in our apartments already. Who or what inspires you?
Jeff: I am still figuring out what inspires me, & maybe this is a constant shift. I love looking at retail spaces & the way brands are trying to translate their identity to a store. The combination of products & the space. The full presentation & experience, as well as the people behind it. Their communication off- & online. Maybe there is still a bit of brand thinking that triggers me.
gloobles: We imagine that sort of mindset is hard to shake. We've noticed that you're one of the only cafes we know in Amsterdam that uses coffee from Bonanza Coffee Roasters in Berlin. Why did you choose their coffee?
Jeff: About 10 or 12 years ago, I stepped into their cafe in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin. I stayed in an apartment on that street, just a few doors away. I loved their way of doing things - fun yet very high quality with an attention to details. Through the years, I kept coming back & still loved it, as they were slowly growing, innovating & always on point with their quality. Whe I was finalising my ideas, it was very clear that I was no specialist in coffee, so I decided to be the first one in Amsterdam to work with a partner like Bonanza to help me build a name & business here. As I was new, nobody knew me or T O K I, so by using Bonanza, we sent a message that we were serious about coffee.
gloobles: We love that approach. We're sure it allowed you to reach more people more quickly. We couldn't even pick anything on the menu that we don't love, but we're curious: what are your favourite things to eat & drink on the menu?
Jeff: In the morning, I always like to kick off the day with a flat white from the single origin that we are serving that day. For food, we have a seasonal menu, & from our current offering, I love to start the morning with our rose oats & have the sunflower seed toast with a poached egg later in the day. Maybe a kouign amann with a flat white to fly off... When we have warmer days in Amsterdam, a nice cold beer or a yuzu soda gets me going as well.
gloobles: Wow, rose oats?! That sounds incredible. If you're not enjoying a delicious cup of coffee at T O K I, where do you like to grab a cup of joe in Amsterdam?
Jeff: When I decide to drink coffee elsewhere, it is always based on what I'm doing that day & where it takes me. If I go to the Westerpark with my kids, I would get a coffee from Espressofabriek. When I go to the gym, I pass Fuku cafe & enjoy a coffee there. In the east, I go to 4850. When going to Noord to skate with my son, I get a coffee at Public Space. It's nice to see that all these places have their own vibe with different coffee.
gloobles: Currently adding them all to our must-visit list... What about a bite to eat?
Jeff: Eating out for lunch is something where I like to go with the daily flow depending on what I'm feeling. It could be a ramen place like Hinata or a sandwich from my local Surinamese spot. Evenings are a bit rarer for me (because of kids rush hour, which never seems to stop), but when it happens, I love to go to Binnenvisser, Bar Centraal & Bambino.
gloobles: If you keep an eye out, you might just spot those places in our book! Great minds think alike. Other than T O K I, do you have a favourite coffee place in the world?
Jeff: Of course I love Bonanza. I think Fuglen in Tokyo next to Yoyogi Park is a great place. It isn't very big, but it has a good vibe & turns into a bar with amazing cocktails. That's something I can imagine T O K I will do one day as well, become a bar at night.