Kopi luwak (also spelled loewak), or “civet coffee”, is one of the world’s most exclusive coffees. Featured in the 2007 film The Bucket List, in which lead character Carter Chambers (Jack Nicholson) totes a thermos of the precious drink, it has inspired both intense curiosity and, well, revulsion: the beans used to produce kopi luwak are collected from the stool of the Asian palm civet. The civets first eat whole coffee cherries for their pulp, after which the inner beans ferment inside their stomachs; once defecated, the beans, still whole, are collected, cleaned, and roasted. The result is a remarkably complex, full-bodied coffee — one that sells for anywhere between $100 and $600 per pound.
But what do Asian palm civets and exorbitantly priced coffees all have to do with Amsterdam? For one, Sumatra is the number-one producer of kopi luwak — and Kepahiang Regency Bengkulu in particular, which is also found on the other Indonesian islands of Java, Bali and Sulawesi (as well as East Timor and the Philippines). The Dutch presence on the Indonesian islands was established in 1602, and lasted until their expulsion in 1945; since then, Indonesian culture has proliferated in the Netherlands with the waves of expatriates and returnees. The Netherlands is still a treasure trove of Indonesian specialties, from the wide availability of tempeh (fermented soybean cake) to the various “pasar malam” (Indonesian markets and cultural festivals) and, of course, imported delicacies like kopi luwak.
In short, the Netherlands — and Amsterdam in particular — is your best bet to find an affordable cup of this prized coffee, and countless visitors take the opportunity to do just that.
Where can I find kopi luwak?
Kopi luwak is sold by the cup at Hofje van Wijs, on Zeedijk 43 in Amsterdam Chinatown. Customers can take theirs as ordinary coffee, espresso, or an espresso-based drink like cappuccino. In any preparation, kopi luwak is an exceptional treat, with a chocolatey richness and no bitter aftertaste. Devotees can also take it home for € 20 per 100g.
Beer lovers needn’t miss out, either — Brouwerij de Molen, based in Bodegraven, South Holland, has even transformed kopi luwak into an imperial stout, flavored with bold overtones of the exclusive coffee: a unique product of Dutch-Indonesian hybridity and an ideal souvenir or memento for beer and coffee lovers both.