Most people think Amsterdam is the epicenter for cannabis and in many ways it is but there are plenty of smaller towns, without the usual tourists making the locals stressed out and annoyed. I was lucky enough to spend almost a year living in Leiden in The Netherlands as a student and that’s when I found Coffee and Dreams. While I will always love the city of Amsterdam, for a marijuana devotee, Leiden was the perfect place to experience the coffee shop lifestyle and not get run over by a Dutch bicyclist! The don’t play around in Amsterdam when it comes to bikes.
Leiden is about 45 minutes south of Amsterdam by train and is essentially a small college town. Besides the traditional cobblestone streets and canals that are present in the older towns and cities of most of The Netherlands, you also have everything quintessentially Dutch. Windmills, tulips, bicycles and cheese are part of the everyday landscape. Oh the cheese is legendary but I digress. As with all parts of The Netherlands, coffee shops are a part of the community. The biggest difference between coffee shops in Leiden and in a bigger city like Amsterdam is there are fewer of them and they don’t usually open until at least 4 pm, to give the students motivation to actually attend school. Smart move.
My go to coffee shop in Leiden was called Coffee and Dreams and yes they served up both. Unlike dispensaries in the US, coffee shops encourage and make it possible for customers to buy their marijuana and sit back, get comfortable and consume it right there on the premises. Not all coffee shops are set up exactly the same but Coffee and Dreams was pretty typical in that you had a very small space to one side of the actual coffee shop where you could purchase your cannabis and then walk 10 steps into the coffee shop proper, sit down and toke up. The small space where you checked out the menu, chatted with the budtender was tiny, like maybe two people max could fit in there so there was usually a line out the door, especially right at 4 pm when they opened.
At the time the strains that were popular were of course Northern Lights, Jack Herer and White Widow. Amazing how they are still just as popular today as they were years ago but when something is that good, it’s timeless I suppose. At Coffee and Dreams there was no information available about the THC percentage but I was never disappointed in the quality of cannabis. My normal after school routine was to pick up a joint to enjoy at the coffee shop plus a little more for later in the dorms. Once I settled down at a table with my joint I would usually order, yes you guessed it, coffee. Well actually cappuccino and if I got into a serious discussion with someone at another table or played chess with a Dutch guy who was literally unbeatable, I might switch to beer after an hour or so. They also had one or two food items available, and they changed occasionally but always involved bread and cheese in some way.
The vibe at Coffee and Dreams was super chill and they even had a few tables kind of hidden away in the back behind some plants so you could be alone while around other people at the same time. It truly was a cannabis paradise and the vibe was so chill that you always felt like staying for hours. After getting good and baked I would begin the 20 minute walk to the dorms which most Dutch people could never comprehend why I didn’t ride my bike. The walk was so peaceful plus I like getting a little lost when I’m stoned. The first few times I took this walk, I got a little worried I would never find my way back to the dorms but as long as I walked in the right direction, there were many ways to get there, eventually. While I understand the laws are different in other countries where cannabis is legal, the whole concept of the coffee shop should exist everywhere cannabis is legal. It’s the stuff of dreams!