Captain Hooter’s Connoisseur’s Guide to Amsterdam Coffee Shops is a must-read for the marijuana-friendly traveler.
Look at Instagram and you one might think 2019 travel writing consists of superficially attractive young people making tacky captions about “living your best life” while lounging in a hammock on an atoll. But sometimes the best people to convey information about a place are really veterans who have shoe leather as currency. Herbal expert and multi-year Cannabis Cup jury Captain Horn has his . published Connoisseur’s guide to Amsterdam coffee shops (Sunbury Press), and it is a very entertaining read for anyone wanting to discover Dutch culture beyond windmills and the Heineken factory.
At sentence level, treat yourself to sentences such as the following description of a restaurant called The Librije in the Dutch city of Zwolle: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience – three Michelin star restaurant and boutique hotel in a former women’s prison.” But Hooter’s book meticulously searches the hundreds of cannabis “coffee shops” that sell cannabis according to the Dutch doctrine of toleration policy. Such is the “tolerance policy” by which authorities turn a blind eye to the sale of cannabis as long as they are small and unadvertised, creating the decriminalized, but not quite legal, pot culture that became famous worldwide and spawned an East Bay button university called Oaksterdam and even a famous episode of The wire.
When casually asked to name his favorite coffee shop, Hooter realized he couldn’t answer the question properly without a comprehensive approach, and after the Canadian-Californian and his wife eventually moved to the Netherlands, he took the search seriously. Talking to budtenders—and using a microscope and jeweler’s loupe to inspect the different species—Hooter blends the anecdotal with the scientific, and the result is full of little charms and plenty of unexpected tidbits.
Did you know, for example, that about half of Amsterdam’s coffee shops have closed in recent years? The customer service may not always live up to the American level of fake cheer, not every place lets you smoke inside, and some are surprisingly gross. But the best shine, from Bluebird to The Stud. Though Hooter doesn’t rank them – which is admirable – he talks about their quirky virtues, such as the one offering frozen milk with pancakes and having a delicious raclette fondue. One cafe has a library of 5,000 books, many of which are autographed by their authors as they pass through. It’s an attribute that sounds like the opposite of a sterile, Third Wave coffee laptop farm.
While the photography isn’t very professional and it will certainly help if you already know the difference between OG Kush and Lemon Bubble, Hooter’s amiable, Big Lebowski-esque voice will inform you without overwhelming you. The Connoisseur’s guide to Amsterdam coffee shops is probably best wedged in your back pocket while roaming as freely as a collegiate backpacker.
Flat, densely populated Amsterdam is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, making a cannabis tour a breeze. And travelers must stick to the city limits, as it is technically illegal to sell cannabis to anyone who is not Dutch except in Amsterdam, where authorities recognized its importance for tourism. (Such a rational country, really.) If you want an exhaustive volume on the blue-and-white pottery of Delft, the postmodern architecture of Rotterdam or the reclamation of the Zuiderzee, you’ll have to buy another book. But if you want to find Boerejongens’ flagship location in an up-and-coming neighborhood that also happens to be near an Italian restaurant that serves excellent scallopini, the captain will take care of you.
Captain Hooter’s Connoisseur’s Guide to Amsterdam Coffee Shops, $19.95, sunburypressstore.com.