Kopi luwak (also spelled loewak), or "civet coffee" - colloquially known as "cat poop 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 pricey coffees all have to do with Amsterdam? It starts with the Dutch colonial period in Indonesia. The Indonesian island of Sumatra is the number-one producer of kopi luwak, which is also found on the islands of Java, Bali and Sulawesi, as well as in East Timor and the Philippines. (Learn more about the islands of Indonesia.) In fact, it was thirteen-time mayor of Amsterdam Nicolaes Witsen who had the idea to export coffee beans from Mocha, Yemen to the Dutch East Indies - present-day Indonesia - in the late 17th century.
The Dutch presence on the Indonesian islands, established in 1602, lasted until their expulsion in 1945; ever since then, Indonesian culture has proliferated in the Netherlands, with the arrival of 300,000 Indonesians and Dutch-Indonesians in the next decades.
To this day, the Netherlands is a treasure trove of Indonesian specialties: toko's (Indonesian food markets) that carry specialties such as tempeh (fermented soybean cake); Indo-Dutch restaurants that serve rijsttafel banquets; and the availability of imported delicacies like kopi luwak.
Where can I try kopi luwak?
Kopi luwak is sold by the cup at Hofje van Wijs (Zeedijk 43), where customers can take theirs as ordinary coffee, espresso, or an espresso-based drink like cappuccino; or at Vascobelo V-Bar (Rokin 9-15).
In any form, kopi luwak is an exceptional treat, with a chocolatey richness and no bitter aftertaste. Devotees can also order kopi luwak beans from both vendors.
Beer lovers needn't feel left out, either: Brouwerij de Molen, based in Bodegraven, South Holland, has even transformed kopi luwak into an imperial stout, filled with hints of the exclusive coffee - a perfect souvenir or memento for beer and coffee lovers both.
Note that the popularity for kopi luwak has led to the rise of civet-coffee farms, where civets are kept in cruel captivity. To find out more about how to ensure ethically-sourced kopi luwak, visit Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap.