An Interview with Sjoerd van der Veen

Maintenance

What do you do at The Dylan and how long have you been here?

I work in the maintenance department at The Dylan. My background and skills are in carpentry and that’s primarily what I do. Many people are surprised that a hotel has a full time carpenter. But in 5-star-hotel like The Dylan, there are always projects for improvement in order to uphold the standard and luxury experience for our guests. A project that I might work on is a new closet for a room or structures for the foyer, for example.

All together I’ve worked at The Dylan for six years, however I left for a while in between in order to gain new experiences and sharpen my skills.

What’s the best part of your job?
Realizing projects in my own workshop. I love when a design or planned change to the hotel is suggested and I can think about the best approach. Watching as it all comes together is such a fantastic experience.

So there is a lot of creativity involved?
Definitely, from both sides, so from management and from my end. Mixing it together and seeing the result is very rewarding.

On an average day, do you collaborate a lot or do you tend to work alone?
It’s a bit of both. The technical service manager could approach me at any time with a project that needs to be handled right away. Then of course we have longer term projects that require constant communication between teams. Next week, for instance, we will be renovating a few showers and after that some rooms are getting new floors. We are never sitting still.

What does a typical day on the maintenance team look like?
On the maintenance team we have altogether five people and we all start our shifts together, which is very nice. We start the day with a coffee and twice a week one of us goes to the bakery to get some gevulde koeken, then we share what we did the evening before, check our emails. Most of the time we know what the day ahead will look like. If there is work in the kitchen, we have to start early because at 11 am the cooks are preparing lunch.

On a normal day, housekeeping might call and report something that needs to be checked out in a room. In a hotel there is always something. But if there is nothing urgent, we focus on our longer term projects. And even then no day is the same.

How do you contribute to the mission of giving guests an unforgettable stay?
We are always upgrading the hotel, in and outside of the rooms. Together the maintenance team ensures that The Dylan looks perfect at all times. I love the building so it’s a real pleasure to uphold it.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
The most challenging thing is getting a job done in time. Many unexpected things can happen that might delay a project, but we always try to turn it around in time. It’s also important to ensure that everyone is happy with a result, especially keeping the guests in mind.

That’s always challenging with hospitality.
Indeed! I actually never thought I would work in hospitality when I’m older. And The Dylan is the perfect hotel to work at.

What’s your favorite place in Amsterdam to recommend to guests?
That always depends on what they are looking for, but I genuinely enjoy every part of Amsterdam. Just cycling through the city and discovering hidden streets. In Amsterdam there is so much behind every building, every door has a story behind it. You can always find something interesting to discover. I really like this and encourage guests to just explore. The Amsterdam forest is also an enchanting place to visit, so I would certainly recommend going there this Spring.

 

 

An Interview with Joeki Genet

Guest Service Assistant & Concierge

What does your role at The Dylan entail and what does your typical day look like?
I am both a Concierge and a Guest Service Assistant at The Dylan. As a Guest Service Assistant, I am responsible for the welcome, the check-in, the guests’ needs during their stay, the check-out and the goodbye. And as a Concierge, I also tend to all arrange the things outside of the hotel. These tasks are arranging private tours and museum tickets, limousine transfers, making recommendations and reservations for a restaurant, giving suggestions on how to spend the day and much more.

My day starts with reviewing the notes on guests, so who has checked in and who is checking out, reviewing what they have requested and preparing for whatever that might be. We are in touch with some guests already per email, to arrange an itinerary or any special wishes before they arrive. During the day, new things might come up, so it’s good to always be prepared for that.

You make recommendations to guests – how do you stay informed about things going on in Amsterdam?
There are always new things popping up. I stay informed by cycling around the city or talking to friends and colleagues in the business. It’s important to keep your eyes and ears open and to be curious about what is going on.

Is it challenging to give recommendations when so many people look ahead online?
Yes, it can be. Luckily I am a born-and-bred Amsterdammer. The internet is very informative, but there are some things that just the locals know, like places of the beaten path. Some people like to stick to the evergreen sights and attractions, but others want to see Amsterdam from a different angle. I try to understand each guest and what they might like and make as personalized recommendation as possible, which is something the internet cannot provide. It’s also easier to trust a local’s recommendations over an online review.

What’s your favourite part of your job?
I always compare what I do at The Dylan to professional team sports. You have to be a team player and work together to win. And you’re not going to win if you don’t work hard. It’s like playing for Ajax or the New York Yankees: You need to have professional people and you need to perform every day, day after day.
The absolute best feeling is when we do our utmost best. When guests tell us they had a wonderful stay, when they come back to stay with us or when they recommend us to others, that is motivation to keep performing at our level.

And what’s the most challenging?
To always work at 100% or higher. I believe there is always room to improve, even if it’s just in the little things. If you see something that can make the job easier or the guest happier, try to do it the next time. Always try to optimize and make your job more perfect, through communication or through processes. A little thing can make a big difference to make the guest experience even smoother.

In your opinion, what makes an excellent Guest Service Assistant and Concierge?
It is crucial to understand people, to know them without actually knowing them. To have a feeling of who you have in front of you. You have to pick up certain signals. One guest might like to go to the newest nightclub with loud music, but the other might enjoy a hidden restaurant that’s quiet and cosy. The second step is to always be a step ahead. Just like in chess.

What’s the most fun / interesting / memorable request you’ve ever had?
Every day is different and every guest is interesting. Nothing too crazy has happened yet, but there is still time for that!

What would you recommend to guests to do and see in the new year?
2019 was the year of Rembrandt, so this year I recommend visitors to also discover the smaller museums which have fantastic exhibitions. I also really hope that it will snow this winter and that the canals will freeze over. It’s such a beautiful and romantic sight, to see people ice skating over the canals. You can enjoy traditional pea soup and sip a hot chocolate with cream. January is the kick-off of the tulip season and on the 18th everybody is invited to pick their own free tulips on Dam Square.

 

 

Amber room at The Dylan

The Dylan’s Designers

Paul Linse and Barbara de Vries
Design directors at Studio Linse

After having created interior designs for important buildings like the Rijksmuseum, the Royal Concert Hall Amsterdam and the Royal Opera House in London we are honoured to be chosen by the iconic Dylan Hotel for, initially, the new design for its brasserie Occo. Being an old-time personal favourite of mine, with its top-level service and respectfulness to the guests it felt more like we were looking for what to maintain rather than to re-create or re-invent.

To create a new design in this Golden Age monument with its rich history on the stunning main canal Keizersgracht, right in the middle of the Unesco protected old town, is not something to take lightly yet gave us as a design team the opportunity to do what we love most: creating a timelessness that respects the past and welcomes the present.
A building that ages well and succeeds to always remain relevant deserves the best. For Occo we not only cherry-picked from famed international furniture collections but also designed bespoke seating such as an oversized velvet upholstered sofa that invites and embraces, comfortable chairs and marble tables in subtle textures in natural shades.

The wonderful terrace in the historical courtyard is reflected in the custom made mirrors, doubling natural light during the day while guests are enjoying breakfast, having the best coffee, a refreshing lunch or afternoon tea. Since we believe that light is the main ingredient to influence and create the best atmosphere we designed a 5-meter brass chandelier hanging over the solid marble bar.

Its sparkling lights bring animation and joy, allowing the venue to transform into a perfect place for cocktails, bites and dinner in the evenings. The fact that the space at one point in history served as a theatre is echoed in the velvet arch, like a theatre curtain, a backdrop leading to the Michelin star restaurant Vinkeles.

From the design of Occo, Vinkeles’ new furniture and an extension into the garden we moved on to the rooms with this same design approach of timelessness and comfort. Bringing together different pieces of signature furniture in an elegant and balanced setting of lush fabrics and calming colours the design of the rooms reflects the Dylans uniqueness and high sense of hospitality and discreteness. What a pleasure to be part of the evolution of this Dutch historical icon.

 

 

An Interview with Natasja Noorlander

Maître at The Dylan

Can you describe your role at The Dylan? 
I am the Maître of Restaurant Vinkeles and responsible for all the wines at the hotel. My main focus is Vinkeles, our fine dining restaurant. During the day I create pairings based on dishes and during dinner I serve these wines along with selections from our à la carte menu to our guests.  

Sounds like you’re always busy! 
Indeed. On top of my role at Vinkeles, I am also in charge of ordering wine for groups and banqueting events. I also take care of the smaller wine selection at OCCO, our bar and brasserie. Here we offer our unique High Wine experience, where we serve four small dishes, each accompanied by a matching glass of wine. 

What does your creative collaboration with the chef look like? 
The chef actually tells me quite early when he is thinking of a new dish. He will approach me and say he’s thinking about something with seabream, olives and paprika, for example. Immediately I am curious to see what he is coming up with. Sometimes during his creative process, I have the chance to take a small bite of something. Luckily we have a good partnership, so I can be honest with any feedback. When the dish is almost fully developed, that’s when I come in with a wine suggestion. Sometimes I know exactly what is needed, other times I have a few options that would work. At that point we sit together with the dish and a selection of wines and taste everything together. 

Do you travel a lot for your job? How do you decide what to stock? 
Most of the wine from our suppliers comes directly to me in Amsterdam. We work with more than 20 suppliers. Some only bring Madeira, for example, or only Champagne. Many bring a selection of new wines. We take an hour to sit together and sample different things. Our suppliers know what kind of cuisine we do at Vinkeles and what works well. When I do travel, it’s upon invitation from wineries – like in Spain or South Africa – to go and stay with them, spend time in the vineyard. Talking to the winemakers and being in the vineyards is to me one of the most beautiful experiences. 

Is this what inspired you to become a sommelier? 
Actually my decision to work in hospitality happened while I was studying Biochemistry. I was in my laboratory and feeling a bit lonely. At the time I was working part-time at a restaurant, and I saw myself being really good at it. I thought, if I am going to work at a restaurant, then I want to be the best I can be. So I went to the Hotelschool Ter Duinen in Belgium and after that I started working at fine-dining restaurants. I realised quite soon that wines are really half of the dining experience: they can make your evening complete. So I decided to focus on wine. 

How do you help guests who don’t know what to order? 
When you have guests who are a bit intimidated by the wine list or by the wine-drinking experience, I always ask them what they like to drink. People know more than they think. So I start with: Do you like white or red? Then: Do you want something with a fresh character or perhaps with more of an oaky character? A little bit rounded? Something with fruit? We endeavor for our guests to find something that they will enjoy. If they don’t like it, we will find something else.

What’s currently your favourite wine to recommend to guests?
For this menu we have a white wine, Lindie Carien made by Franco Lourens from South Africa, a blend of four different grapes from all over the Western Cape. There’s the minerality from the grapes from the coastline, the riper fruit of the ones from warmer regions. It’s complex without being too heavy. I love serving it with our seafood courses. 

For your job you have to stay informed about what’s currently happening in the world of wine. Can you give us some insights into what’s trending?
There was this trend recently, “the funkier, the better”. There was a special group of people who really dove into it and only drank funky wines. But besides that, natural wines, so wine made without any additives, are really in and can be quite interesting.

And what is your all time favourite wine?
That’s impossible to answer.

Do you ever drink beer or cocktails?
Beer not so much, I had to learn how to drink Heineken. That took me a while. When I do drink beer it’s special craft beer. Cocktails I like. They can be like a small party in a glass.

Besides The Dylan, what wine places would you recommend in Amsterdam?
Café de Klepel is one of my favourites. I love the relaxed atmosphere. This is where you go with your partner or friends for a cosy evening. And for great wine I go to 4850. Here you can go with people who appreciate good wine and want to taste something new and different.

 

 

Talking Fashion: An interview with Laurens Blok – CEO of Van Gils

Can you tell us a bit about the collaboration between The Dylan and Van Gils?
Yes, absolutely. We recently started working together on a unique service feature, offering all guests the possibility to order a high-quality shirt. Our mission is to support men on their road to success. We’ve translated this together with the Dylan into an “Every Man Needs a White Shirt Service. The process is rather easy: each guest will find a clothes hanger in their room with a Van Gils tag, which directs them to the front desk to instantly order a high-quality shirt. The advantage is that we can deliver the shirt at any time of the day since we always have plenty available at the hotel. And in the rare case we’re running out on a few, we can supply the hotel straight from one of our shops in the city.
Additionally, if any of the Dylan’s guests is looking for a great outfit (which can range from a tuxedo to a smart casual look) we can also take care of personal tailoring, right in the hotel. The room-service concept in that sense is only the beginning of a strong partnership with the Dylan.

Sounds good. So why do we need to wear Van Gils?
Easy. Van Gils has been a Dutch iconic lifestyle brand in the market of premium quality clothing for the last 70 years. We use our Dutch heritage to focus on the authentic man of today. You could say that the Dutch style is slightly rocky and not always too serious if you compare it to the flamboyance of Italian designs or the minimalism of the Scandinavians.
This also means that we serve the authentic man on his rocky road to success and give him confidence along the way. We simply know that success is not a straight line upwards, it comes with plenty of ups and downs. That is the story we bring forward through our designs and the reason why our brand is represented by a few crosses: “no stitches, no story”.

And how does Van Gils match with the Dylan in that respect?
First of all, both fashion and hospitality strongly reflect a lifestyle. Anyhow, whether you select your next hotel or a new jacket, in both cases you do not only consider quality and price. You want to feel comfortable with the place or clothing since they should match your identity.
Then, to answer your question, The Dylan focuses on the highest tier of quality. Just like us. The hotel gives people a certain feeling of trust and confidence while travelling. These are the same values we’d like to communicate to today’s authentic man.

Back to the shirts. When do we know it’s a good one?
Well, curiously enough, it does not always depend on the features that fashion experts bring forward. These people would probably say that quality comes with marble buttons and fabrics from the best Italians mills, but we understand that not everyone needs a silk shirt for instance. When you’re a businessman and travelling, you want a clean white shirt that doesn’t wrinkle, has the right fit and feels comfortable.
To give you an example: I once met up with 35 friends and asked them what a good shirt means to them. Only one friend mentioned the source of the fabrics, the other 34 were more interested in the durability of the shirt and whether it’s easy to iron. By keeping that in mind and considering our target market, these are the features we need to focus on while maintaining an ever-high level of quality.

And how would you say we need to wear a shirt?
Good that you’re saying that. We like to answer that question for our customers every day again. Our designers and retail specialist work on this topic continuously because, in the end, we sell more than just a product: it’s the entire look. That means that we focus on combining and matching our products while keeping the total look in mind. This is the reason why we make suits of which the jacket can be worn independently with a chino, for example.

Is that something you’d like to wear too?
Yes, I love jackets. And I like ties too by the way. They are very trendy now, but therefore commercially not very attractive, unfortunately. I would wear them to a fashion fair but when I meet with friends or do business there is usually no tie involved anymore.

And which style advice would you give our guests who visit Amsterdam?
I would say, please show us that clothing makes a difference. What bothers me, is that most Dutch men are quite passive in their style. Woman in this country always look impeccable but the typical Dutch man usually just pulls anything out of the closet. My message to international travellers is therefore; show us what you’ve got and impress the Dutch.


 

 

An Interview with Stewart Rowberry

You don’t sound very Dutch. Where are you from originally?  
I’m from Worcester in England. But I’ve lived in this country for about forty years already. I used to work on cruise ships, but I was looking for a different kind of job. That’s how I finally ended up working in the flower business in the Netherlands and later in the hotel industry. 

So, where did it all started for you at the Dylan? 
Oh, then we should go back 20 years in time. I was part of the opening team of what was then called ‘The Blakes’. It was the first boutique hotel in The Netherlands and a franchisee of The Blakes in London, the first-ever luxury boutique hotel in the world. When I started as a concierge, our way of working was quite different. The gates at the front of the hotel were always closed for example. It was our job to receive our guests and open the gate for them. 

And what does your current job entail exactly? 
Well, we guide and assists guests with nearly anything they need. That includes car rentals, restaurants or luggage. We also add value to the typical Dylan experience while we serve our guest at the front door. Anyway, whether they are arriving or leaving, the Dylan should always feel like a family house.  

And why are you good at this job? 
I suppose I like dealing with people, it’s in my nature to assist them. 

Could it also be a sense of politeness that’s typical for the English? 
Oh, that could be true, that never fades away. To be honest, I’m just being me and I have no intention to be an actor of some kind. I just love this job because I have a lot of contact with our guests. And I’m not fixed behind a desk, that’s a bonus too. I’m constantly moving around, which makes the job quite dynamic. 

What is your secret to making people happy? 
I always try to go the extra mile. If a guest asks a difficult question or when a request is rather challenging, I always endeavour to find a solution. That effort is usually very valued by our guests. 

So, what does your day look like normally? 
We work in morning and evening shifts, but both are quite similar if it comes to the work we do. I always start coordinating with the reception and check whether there are requests left from the shift before and if all taxis are arranged. Then I continue to work on emails, help our guests with luggage and their request. We do quite a few things at the same time, but that makes the job so dynamic. 

Do any of the online tools change your work as a concierge? 
Yes, a little bit. In the first place, we used to acquire our knowledge through books and personal experiences. These days, the internet is one of our most important sources. Secondly, there is always a large group of guests who first check a website such as Tripadvisor before they come down to hear our opinion. But we can then help them make the best choice, based on the work they have already done online. 

And how do you know which advice to give? 
You have to read the guest in front of you. For example, if an older couple decides to visit a very trendy restaurant, which I think may not fit them exactly, I try to explain what kind of venue it is. Of course, in the end, our guests make the decision but from my experience, I can help them well on their way.  

And how do you keep yourself informed about everything that happens in the city? 
Mainly through the internet, publications in magazines and the contact we have with restaurants. We also try different restaurants ourselves as regularly as possible. It’s a good way to discover new concepts and to meet up with our team. 

Which place in Amsterdam would you recommend visiting? 
The Jordaan is definitely the most beautiful neighbourhood. It has the atmosphere of a village, which is so typical for the whole city. It is also an area that you could perfectly discover by bike.  

 

 

An Interview with Michou Vreeswijk

HR Manager at The Dylan

Tell us, what do you do at the Dylan? 
Literally, everything that concerns Human Resources Management: from the moment we open up a vacancy to recruitment, applications, onboarding and policies. I also make sure that departmental procedures are executed in time. Think for example of the end-of-year evaluations and the staff’s Christmas presents, which are both coming up now.  
However, my most important task is to be here for the team. I want them to know me and feel comfortable enough to get in touch whenever they need me. Therefore I make frequent rounds through the hotel, just to chat and to give the HR department a face. This daily contact with the staff is by far the best part of my job. 

So you were born for Human Resources Management? 
Haha, yes, perhaps. I suppose the main goal of an HR Manager is to increase the ‘happiness factor’ because only a cheerful team can look after happy guests. I am an involved and open person, which helps to establish such a culture. If you combine that with my planning and organizational skills, yes, you could say that I was born for this job. 

Is there any hot topic you are working on now? 
Since I arrived here 7 months ago, I have observed everything that could be improved or done differently. I am now converting this information into specific projects and next year I will start working on some of them. 
The onboarding process is probably the first project that I will run. There is still a lot that we can achieve in that respect. From the day they start, new team members should get the right experience, which you can call the ‘Dylan feeling’. The onboarding process is what makes them feel at home right away and keeps the team strong at all times. 

So do you think this is what drives effective teams?  
Yes, but the strongest teams flourish mainly through openness and honesty. There should be a sense of trust between all team members. That is only possible if their leaders give the right example. If they tend to be slightly negative for a moment, this will be picked up instantly. A leader should provide compliments and direct, honest feedback to create a positive atmosphere where everyone is prepared to help one another. I think The Dylan is managing this really well. 

Could it also be the success factor of the Dylan? 
I do believe so. The Dylan is a small boutique hotel, which makes it easier for the team to communicate directly and help one another. We can act quickly because we are not restricted by head offices. We make our own decisions and we can let our creativity flow to a certain extent. That is what motivates many of us here. 

Something else, how do you keep yourself going? Or let’s put it this way: what do you live for?  
Good food! Well, and shoes, but I guess that’s inevitable, as a woman. I am always ready for good food. In this time of the year, I can really look forward to my husband’s traditional stew. He actually knows exactly how I like it, he cuts off any excess fat – not too much, because then it gets tough – and then he lets it simmer day and night. Heaven!

Sounds delicious! And if you go out for dinner. Where do you go? 
On an Autumn Sunday, we usually make a long stroll through the Vondelpark before we end at Restaurant Moer. They always have a nice Sunday vibe and a program with for example live music or a Sunday brunch. After an early-morning walk along the canals, it is also great to unwind at the cosy fireplace of The Dylan. Such a romantic place! It may even be my favourite spot in the hotel. 
One other thing I love: artisan beers, those traditionally brewed ones. I usually go to ‘Brasserie Het IJ’ or a classic Amsterdam pub, which we call a “bruin café” (brown café). ‘In ‘t Aepjen’ is a good one. I think they have never changed the interior in the last decades…

 

 

An Interview with Robbert van Rijsbergen

What does your job entail exactly?
Well, I oversee the Sales & Marketing department. We take room and restaurant reservations, organize meetings & events, look after revenue management, sales, marketing and public relations.

That’s a whole lot. How do you oversee all those different activities?
It is quite dynamic indeed. What’s most important, is having the right people around you. At the Dylan, we have a few senior staff members and several external partners who I can trust blindly. That allows me to maintain a bird’s eye view and overlook various projects all at once: from our new website to proactive sales activities.

And is there any hot topic you’re working on now?
Yes, a new strategy is “automate the predictable so we can humanize the exceptional”. That means nothing more than robotizing workflows to have more time for human interactions with guests. This involves activities such as setting up a smart Customer Relationship Management System to new ways of using current systems.
Another topic we’re working on is our brand recognition in The Netherlands. We are well known overseas but we need to further spread our name in the local market.

It seems that you enjoy your work. Why are you made for this job?
Simply, because of its dynamics, creativity and human interaction. I used to work for a large travel organization, which is a completely different game than working for a boutique hotel. I very much prefer a small-scale organization and working closely within a smaller team.

How do you qualify your management style? And how do keep your team strong?
By keeping the atmosphere strong. There are many theories about management but in the end, it’s just a feeling and sense of empathy. We laugh, drink lots of coffee and go out for dinner once in a while. If the atmosphere is not good, I will sense that immediately, especially in a small organization such as ours.
When it comes to leading a team, it’s a very individual and a tailored process. Senior team members, for example, only want you to share some ideas and opinions, whereas other team members may need more coaching.

Down to the content of your job now. How do you position the Dylan?
We’d like to stay in the top 5 of the city’s high-end hotels and remain the only real luxury boutique hotel. Therefore, we want our guests to feel as if they’re staying with a well-to-do family member in Amsterdam. That lifestyle and residential feel should always be present at the Dylan. It’s also the reason why we do not use lots of signage in the hotel for example. Or another example is that we try to gather preferences and the purpose of our guests’ stay before their arrival. Whilst respecting their privacy of course.

And do people abroad understand this concept?
Generally, yes. I travel a lot to the U.S. and most of our clients there know The Dylan and its boutique concept.

And if they already know the hotel, how do you sell it then?
Well, most likely they don’t know about our recent updates and renovations. So, I will first update them about our new developments. Then I will further stress our location and unique mix of room types. I think we have a room style for nearly every type of guests. Most important is to discuss our tailored approach. This is also applicable to our reservations and meeting & events team. If for example, a couple is interested in organizing their wedding, we prefer to meet them personally. And, more than in other hotels, we can agree on organizing even the smallest details.

How do you foresee the future of hotels? Anything that will change?
I consider artificial intelligence an important trend. Without harming the essential human interactions, this technology can help us to smoothen certain service encounters. Think for example of a chatbot helping our guests to make restaurant reservations in the middle of the night.

And is there any news we may expect from the Dylan soon?
Well, we’re finishing our upgrade of the reception area. The physical front desk will be removed, and we will receive our guests with refreshments in a lounge type setting.

Sounds like a perfect fit for the Dylan?
Exactly. Our personal approach and family feel set us apart from other hotels. If for example I walk out of the door here, and I see a group of guests arriving with plenty of suitcases, my team and I are happy to help them with their luggage. We just don’t work on organizational islands, which is good for our team spirit and the value to our guests.

And if you had to take this group of people through Amsterdam. Where would you go?
I would hop on an open boat and cruise along the canals, followed by a few bitterballen and drinks on a terrace. And finally, I would end the day with some comfort food at the ‘Food Hallen’.

And, what is your favorite food exactly? 
I love Japanese and Thai food, but you could also wake me up for a Dim Sum lunch on a lazy Sunday.

 

 

Talking Tea: An interview with Kiona Malinka

The Dylan Amsterdam serves the exclusive Kiona Malinka Tea: the most beautiful leaves, curated exclusively for The Dylan. We spoke with Kiona Malinka herself about the craft of creating and serving our favourite warm treat.

So, tell us, what is the Kiona Malinka tea exactly?
Well, for the last 5 years we have been importing tea under the Crusio Tea label, my interpretation of a heavenly taste. We recognized that we had a few special clients, such as The Dylan. These clients were ready for the next level: beautiful tea served with an eye for detail. We then launched the Kiona Malinka label exclusively for them and by invitation only.

And how did that all start?
I began with a passion for coffee but discovered that my tea suppliers couldn’t tell me where their tea leaves were coming from. Which farmers produced it? From which plantations do the leaves originate? I found it strange that I couldn’t get an answer to those questions, especially since my coffee and wine suppliers were able to do so.
I then dedicated myself to a mission and travelled to the most remote tea plantations. Anywhere in the world, I would jump on a four-wheel drive, hired a student as a translator and drove up into the mountains. Wherever I saw a nice plantation with beautiful leaves, I would speak to the tea farmers and learn everything about their craftsmanship. After 3 years of travelling and learning, I felt ready enough to start my own label.

And do you still work with those tea farmers?
Yes, and my job is to find the best teas in the world, so my contacts have only expanded. That is why I spend most of my time keeping up with the 65 farmers in 14 countries we do business with. And the travelling never stopped: once in a while I jump on a plane again and explore new plantations. I also try to stay for a bit longer then and sleep at the farms, just to make sure that I know all the ins and outs of the plantation.

Is that personal relationship also your way to look after sustainability and social entrepreneurship? 
Yes, it’s just the farmer and me: the value chain cannot be any shorter. People generally don’t know how to spend donated money so I rather value people for what they do and achieve. With my investment, their tea may be improved so that we collaborate and grow together.

What drives you to do all of that?
I have a thorough personality and always like to be informed about just everything. For example, you would have been able to tell that I’m a perfectionist when we recently didn’t have any Darjeeling on offer. Simply because I couldn’t find the perfect leaves.

And do you have a favourite tea yourself?
Well, there are so many seasons, harvests and farmers, which makes it hard to put one particular taste in the spotlight. But oh, I could say that I feel very much at home in Japan. The Japanese are just as profound as I am and will never go for anything less than 100% quality.

We are quite familiar with wine-food pairings. Do you also pair your tea with food?
Absolutely, but there is one main difference: tea also has to be prepared. That active part makes it even more fun than working with wine since you can influence the taste through temperature and preparation. Another difference compared to wine is that there is no reference framework. A greasy sauce generally pairs well with a full-bodied wine, but with which tea? There are no rules for tea, so we can simply follow our taste buds.

Why is tea of importance for a hotel?
Tea is anchored in almost every culture and country: it is the most consumed drink in the world after water. That is why everyone remembers those magical moments of warmth and nostalgia when thinking of tea. It also makes tea a silent connector, providing a soothing home feeling.

Is that why your tea matches The Dylan?
Yes, the Dylan has an intimate atmosphere and focus on quality. The smaller scale of the hotel allows us to continuously push our service limits. That is how we can keep surprising guests of the Dylan at various moments during the day. Even if you order a pot for breakfast or a cup of tea during your meeting, we will always look after the full tea experience.

And what is that you like about the Dylan?
It’s just magical to arrive here, have the door opened for you and enter the historic property. But after all, it is the staff who make this such a fantastic place. Wherever I go in the hotel, everyone always pays attention, sees me and stops for a chat. That is a very special way of taking care of guests.

To conclude, what is the next step you will be taking?  
Well literally, I will start tasting again in a bit. I taste nearly 200 samples a week. And in a few weeks, I will head over to China for another adventure, followed by a trip to Singapore to train the staff at the Raffles hotel. You see, I will never get bored of tea…

 

 

An Interview with Roetz

Starting this year, guests of The Dylan can explore the city on Roetz bikes. These are not your ordinary two-wheelers but bicycles with a story and mission. We spoke with Willem-Jan Otten, Operations Manager at Roetz, about everything that makes the world a better place.

We’ve heard different inspiring stories about Roetz. Could you summarize what Roetz is about?
We produce handcrafted designer bicycles by reusing the core parts of discarded ones. We do that with a team of men and woman returning to the job market. By combining those two approaches, we try to contribute to a more social and circular economy.

How did it all start?
One of our founders, Tiemen ter Hoeven, used to be a consultant. While working on a project for one of the German car manufacturers, he discovered that the car producer used the principles of remanufacturing. He was inspired by the approach: the process is green and makes a manufacturer less vulnerable to the fluctuations of commodity prices. Tiemen matched this solution with the problem of the Dutch bicycle waste and initiated Roetz.

So, how do you produce a Roetz bike exactly?
The process follows a sequence of 5 steps:

  1. Collection

We purchase bikes that in general have no economic value at all.

  1. Dismantling and check

We dismantle the front fork and frame and sort all other parts that may be re-used in a new lifecycle. We then screen on cracks or corrosion, with this process we can save up to 40% of the raw material to be used for new bikes. For fleet bikes like the OV-Fiets we can reach up to 70%, due to the large number of identical parts.

  1. Lacquer removal and check

Once we have removed different layers of lacquer from the front fork and frame we check the quality of the material again to make sure we only use quality products.

  1. Protective coating

We apply a strong multi layered powder coating that protects the material and provides a fresh new look.

  1. Assembling

All other parts are new and installed on the remanufactured front fork and frame. The bike is now ready to ride the world for years.

And where do the bikes come from exactly?
Well, I could give you one of those romantic stories of beautiful bikes getting fished from the canal. Haha. But that’s not the reality. In fact, the city council traces left bikes on the streets and takes them to an auction. Some vendors then buy the masterpieces, which is fine because that’s also circular. But we buy real wrecks that nobody wants.

Why would you say is the circular economy important?
It is the only way to create a long-lasting system. We simply cannot keep producing waste. On top of that, it forces manufacturers to produce quality because the product will return to them in the end. In that sense, our current solution at Roetz is only suboptimal: we fix what it is broken but do not prevent it from happening. In other words: we reuse waste but cannot avoid its production.
 
So, would that be your next step?
Exactly. The real solution is to design a bicycle that lasts forever. Producing such a bike is too expensive for the standard consumer market. But if we know that we get the bike back, we can invest in solutions that make the bike last forever.

Where does your staff come from?
From all over the place, ranging from ex-convicts to unemployed men and women. It’s just wonderful to see how these people grow and flourish over time. We once had a guy who started off with a lack of motivation and energy. But before we could even expect a disaster, he really started to like his job. It’s great to see that he is now a key figure at a production line in a big bicycle factory.

And did you get him up to that level?
We give heaps of training and work in such a structured manner, that our staff makes progress over time. They begin at the very start of the assembly line, which means they will always have a coach next to them. Once they move up the assembly line, they will also get someone on their other side to which they should provide training. This system is progressive: once you move further, your coach and trainee will also progress.

Are these the stories that keep you going?
Yes, for the social part definitely. But I also want to leave a better world for the next generations. A few years ago, I started looking for a job with a focus on sustainability. I could have never imagined that I could combine this with the social dimension.

Why do you think your bikes fit The Dylan?
Our bikes have that typical vintage look and none of them are the same. That reflects the classic appearance of the Dylan, with its surprisingly different rooms and spaces. It is just that both The Dylan and Roetz heavily rely on the stories of their products.

What do you like about The Dylan?
I’ve only been for a drink once but loved the hotel from the moment I entered. I was impressed by the tranquility that hides behind the façade. I could only describe it as a peaceful vibe: one that no one expects upon entering from the busy city centre.