Duo Brings Amsterdam Coffee Culture to S.F.
Rip Pruisken and Marco De Leon are covering the city's coffee Renaissance.
Rhys Alvarado The wafel is placed on the rim of your cup, where it is heated by the steam of your coffee, tea, or even warm cider.
What started off as a missing piece to his mid-morning break routine has turned into Rip Van Wafels -- a business that fits your cup. The inspiration came during his time at Brown University, where Pruisken had gone for too long without a warm stroopwafel, a staple in his native Amsterdam, to pair with his coffee.
"Coffee is really innovating in this city and so we're introducing this ritual here," Pruisken says.
After thousands of wafel-less cups, Pruisken eventually bought his own press so that he could make his own. Hundreds of botched wafels later, Pruisken eventually perfected the product and sold them to passing students on their way to class. After some gained notice on campus, Pruisken hired a group of engineering students to create a machine that pumps out 150 of the thin, baked layers filled with caramel per hour. And Rip Van Wafels was born.
The product became so popular and the business model such a success that the two entered and won the Brown Business Plan Competition and raised enough money to expand beyond College Hill. The wafel that is placed over a hot cup of coffee or tea and warmed while your cup cools is now distributed to most states in the country and tech companies in the Bay Area.
Sitting on one of their SoMa office's many couches, warm tea and wafel in hand, Pruisken and De Leon chatted with me like a duo of therapists, who spoke in a poised, even tone, and emphasized that this product goes deeper than a cookie on a cup -- it's about taking a break.
Rhys Alvarado Rip Pruisken, left, first began making the caramel-filled wafels from a dorm at Brown University. Partner Marco De Leon helped expand Rip Van Wafel beyond College Hill.
"A break is necessary, it's rejuvenating," Deleon says. "This is a vehicle to help make that happen."
After the two graduated with Economic degrees, the two also declined job offers, Pruisken at a restructuring firm and De Leon at Morgan Stanley.
"We had an opportunity to create our own path," De Leon says. "That was very appealing. Far more appealing than sitting behind a desk."
Instead, they decided to relocate to the city to continue on expand the European style of taking breaks, five minutes at a time.
"People have to make time to step back, relax," De Leon says. "For anything, you want clarity.
The two are coming up with different variations of the wafel to cater to different notes and preferences of coffee and tea drinkers. Maybe you want a caramel wafel with your cup of earl grey, or a cocoa filled one with your Ethiopian light roast.
"We're making that break better, and we're making that break more engaging," Pruisken says.