Tasting coffee for a living

Did you know that twenty million cups of coffee are consumed daily in our small country? Who wouldn’t like to help develop a product that almost any adult in Holland loves? Priska Astasari & Nienke Boon both graduated from the Process and Food Technology (PFT) programme at THUAS in 2018. They were fascinated by the food industry while they were still studying. Nowadays the two of them work for Jacobs Douwe Egberts, the famous company that develops and produces many variants of coffee. Tasting coffee is one of the daily activities for Priska and Nienke.

Running coffee tastings

Priska started working for Jacobs Douwe Egberts right after graduation. This is her first job. As a technician in the consumer science team she is responsible for managing a tasting panel and running the tastings. “I prepare the sensory booths while the product developers are preparing the coffee. I invite the panelists to come and then serve them coffee in a certain order. After the session I gather the data from the tasting, analyze them and write a report about it. Once in a while I have to recruit more panelists for the panel.” 

A product developer has to taste first

Nienke decided to follow a Master in Food Technology first. Half a year ago she started as a product development specialist. “I look into a wide range of ingredients within the instant coffee mixes: from different types of dairy ingredients to cocoa powder. A regular day in the office is busy, but extremely fun! As a product developer, I will need to taste everything myself before letting others taste it, to see if my prototype matches our reference. It can vary from just one new ingredient to a whole new kind of coffee. If I am satisfied myself, I will organize tasting sessions including all steps from preparing till evaluating the results.”

Becoming a coffee addict

Being a coffee expert is not one of the job requirements to get hired at Jacobs Douwe Egberts. But it won’t be easy not to become one. Priska: “Before I came here, I barely even knew that there are so many flavours in coffee besides bitter, let alone know the difference in taste between Arabica and Robusta coffee. Now I start understanding the difference between the different types. I’m turning into a coffee addict.” She thinks it’s cool to contribute to developing food and beverages that people consume daily. In the future she wants to be a specialist within a R&D department. In the food industry, that’s certain.

The effect of one single ingredient

Nienke developed her passion for the food industry while doing a minor within PFT: “I really liked the opportunity of making food better for the world, and seeing one single ingredient making a significant change to the product. I love the job I have now. The combination of ingredient understanding with product development is something you can't really learn from books or courses. This is definitely the field I want to be active in.” She doesn’t know what her life will be like in ten years of course, but she knows that a lot is possible within the company. “Hopefully, I can build my network and knowledge to such an extent that my ambitions become true. I would love to go abroad again.”

Looking back on the PFT programme

Has the PFT programme been useful for the job they currently have? Yes, it has! Nienke: “PFT has brought me an amazing basis for my career. Personally, I really liked the practical approach of PFT. With the different projects that you do over the years, you experience how it will be like in the real industry. Also, I've always loved the international point of view of PFT, which has definitely shaped me to the employee I am now, in a multinational company with global contacts.” 
Also Priska gained important skills from the PFT programme. “I got used to working in the laboratory during many practical works we did. I have learned how to work under pressure and manage my time wisely. I have learned how to critically solve a given problem. I have also learned how to deal with cultural differences. Let’s not forget about the excursions to the food and chemical companies. It was fun to get to see how a factory runs and understand the process of making something. Besides, it was a good chance to get to know the industry, the different roles within it, and to network.”

A really proud alumna

Their student days surely won’t turn into a vague memory ever. Priska remembers the group projects in every block being her favourite lessons. “I never thought I would be able to make edible cheese and drinkable beer by myself. I would advise new students to try to enjoy the ‘challenges’ during the programme. The workload seems high and the deadlines tight sometimes, but now I know that the pressure on work later on can be even higher. The programme prepares you for that.” 

Nienke refers to the great people she got to know while studying PFT. I loved the fact to openly chat and discuss with the teachers. My advice for new students: most importantly, enjoy! And of course go to class, the drinks, the company presentations and take your chance to go abroad. I've experienced that the teachers are always there to help you, it is just your own responsibility to let them know you need help. Finally, even though not all subjects might be of your highest interest, they are still extremely useful for the future. I feel like a really proud PFT alumna and I still have the feeling that the "small" PFT community will stay closely connected, including the teachers!”

Want to find out more about the Process and Food Technology programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences?

PFT 3 year programme
PFT 4 year programme