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Foto: Mella Fuchs

UvA mysteries | Who is the woman on our coffee cups?

Mella Fuchs,
29 oktober 2021 - 12:55

Many of us see her every day. It’s the woman we wake up with, the woman we spend our breaks with, the woman who drags us through the day with her uplifting content, the woman we wrap our hands around to warm up. But who is the woman on the coffee cups at the UvA? Folia found out.

The adventure begins on Wednesday 1 March 2017. The catering company of the UvA and the HvA, Enjoy Today, has just launched a competition. Whoever comes up with the best coffee cup design will see his or her design appear on all the coffee cups at the university, and will also be offered a hearty lunch.


The cup must have a catchy text that makes it clear that the cup is ‘compostable and/or can be used several times’. Machteld Bijl (teacher at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS, or in Dutch: HvA), does not know whether there are people who use such a cardboard cup several times in one day. She doesn’t.


Machteld liked the idea, and together with her former colleagues Corinne van der Velden, Tim Calis and Nena Broersen she set to work. In their WhatsApp group the group of bored teachers started a search for a brilliant design.

After a lot of puns, four designs remained. On 17 March, the day of the deadline, they send them in as a collective. Machteld is the founder of the design that will eventually win. During extremely boring meetings, she used to make little drawings with a pen on the white cardboard cups that formerly served the college.


But it won't come to a victory yet, because on judgement day Enjoy Today suddenly changes the rules of the game. The deadline is moved up a week, the winning cup is no longer chosen by a jury but by the public, and last but not least, instead of one winning design on all the coffee cups, suddenly three designs will be chosen. The whole thing smells funny, according to the four teachers.


Why Enjoy Today didn't award it to this designer quartet is not clear to this day. Are the caterers suddenly filled with a democratic desire? Machteld doesn't know. ‘We did realise that we were one of the only ones who had submitted a design. Maybe it wasn't what they were looking for.’


Whatever the reason, the four teachers are now furious. ‘Initially, we just participated for fun. But when we realised we were being played, we became fanatical.’ An angry e-mail with insulting jokes – ‘the competition has a bitter aftertaste’ and ‘Enjoy Today does not serve pure coffee’ - is sent to the company. They will also win the like competition.

‘I sometimes see these cups in Utrecht at the side of the road, and they are in the hospital too’

The winning cup will feature a head. Nena has put Machteld's head as an example on the design, and although Machteld's thoughtful attitude is very appropriate for a ‘learning environment’ like the University of Applied Sciences, Nena explicitly states that this is an example. Perhaps a student could be portrayed on it, or someone else once in a while?


Some time later, the four teachers sit triumphantly at their lunch. An employee of Enjoy Today has told them how many cups will be printed with their design, and the designers calculate that this number will be good for about half a year of cup usage. Unsuspectingly, they hand over the copyrights to their design, chewing on a cheese sandwich.

Machteld does not know that in the next five years her design will be on all the cups at all the coffee machines in the whole university of Applied Sciences, and the UvA. And not only that. ‘I sometimes see these cups in Utrecht at the side of the road, they are in the hospital too, and a friend of mine who works for Sanoma Media sometimes drinks from them too,’ she says. New students recognize her from the cup.


She secretly likes that. ‘We all want to be a bit famous, don’t we?’ But she won’t lose any sleep over it when the cups are taken out of the vending machines tomorrow. ‘If it's time for a new head, so be it. I've seen it a bit.’ Besides, she understands that it's not nice for everyone to have her on the coffee cups. ‘If you don't like me, it's pretty annoying to have to drink out of my rotten head every day.’