How the virus got me

It all started last summer, when I ended a one-year trip through South-America with a 3 months stay in NYC.

I was lucky to be living in lovely Williamsburg and every day my roomies came home with a great smelling cup of Oslo coffee… and I just got intrigued by the atmosphere and friendliness that goes with standing in line with all the regulars and drinking a delicious cup before heading to work or home… or just staying in the bar meeting people, working on my laptop… Coffee to stay or to go, coffee in the morning, afternoon coffee with friends, coffee right before hopping on the bus, a cup to wake up, a cup to go to bed. Back then, coffee was not my main interest, nor did the idea of getting a job involving coffee pop into my mind… but my days did involve lots of coffee…and somehow the coffee virus must’ve silently settled into my body somewhere…


…ready to hit hard a couple of weeks later.

Coming home after an inspiring year of travelling, meeting wonderful people, leading a ‘non-traditional’ life… is not really like stepping into a warm, welcoming, cozy home at all. Oh of course, there’s family and friends that you’ve greatly missed and that are happy to spent some time with you again. There’s some habits and staple foods that you gladly pick up again. But rather then being fulfilled with the embracing feeling of home, I found myself confused and without any goal or project. Though my plane had safely brought me ‘home’, I was floating around and couldn’t find good soil to plant my feet in. While everyone in my surroundings had a bunch of expectations that I felt I obliged to live up to, I would’ve rather just run away again.

I had to choose ‘the next step’, which seemed harder than all the previous steps I had taken in my life. Was I supposed to work in advertising or event organizing again, something I had studied for and done with pleasure (and a suit and overtime)? Or should I try to find a job in a cultural centre, promoting music and theatre, something that has always been an interest? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I also had the idea of opening my own coffee shop one day; something that seemed fun and great to do but that I didn’t have money for now.

And the idea that seemed the least plausible at first won. Somehow – the virus must’ve broken out – I found myself browsing coffee blogs, searching the existing espresso bars in Belgium (oh so few), looking for barista training (even less). As if my senses had now incorporated ‘coffee’ into their library, I came across articles in the newspapers, interviews on the radio, workshops, books and more information.


Coffee became my passion, my goal, my project, my savior, my soil to land in. My home is not a real time place, rather a feeling, a satisfying project surrounded by people that support it. So while I was waiting for OR – the new espresso bar that I was gonna start at – to get ready, I went back to NYC. This time on a concrete mission: visit as many coffee shops as possible, do some coffee research and get some training. It’s lovely to see how the industry is booming over there and how friendly most baristas are. A huge thank you to Daniel Humphries who gave me my very first barista training and who’s an amazing and encouraging trainer. And thanks to Everyman’s Espresso, 9th st, Oslo, Cafe Grumpy, El beit, Gimme and all the other cafes for my daily doses. As always, time in NYC flies and visits are too short, but I was excited to go back this time…


I am happy that I got the opportunity to start at OR, where I am learning every day and I am able to be part of the upswell of espresso and the growing awareness of and interest in good coffee in Belgium. Turning the key of the front door of the cafe and serving shots of espresso everyday, yes, it does feel like coming home.


Just so you know: my new home’s open to everyone: come in and sip your coffee; and I’d be happy to show you around.


Ps: People interested in my adventure through South-America can still read my stories on (in dutch except for one article in english)


2 Responses to “How the virus got me”

  1. 1 Katie Carroll April 29, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I am so proud of you Isa!!! Good on your for finding a new passion at home and even better on you for writing about it. Well written and interesting, we need more personal accounts of stuff like this instead of just industry wank. I hope you don’t lose your beginners touch as you learn more…

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