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Street name tour Lombok

You're now at: 6 Kopi Susu

Café Kopi Susu is in the heart of Lombok, at the intersection of J.P. Coenstraat and Kanaalstraat. The building has a rich history. One of the main characteristics of Kopi Susu is its tile tableau on the wall, where its depiction of 'Oriental' and romantic scenes hint at a colonial connection.

Before Kopi Susu came to this location, the tableau was part of the interior of the shop, De Gruyter. Since its establishment in 1915, locals could go there for colonial goods such as coffee, tea, spices, and sweets. Around fifty years later, the Gruyter chain closed and a shoe store, Van den Broek, took up residence in the building, covering the tiles with shoe boxes.

Van den Broek closed in 2000, after which the Museum Café Lombok took over. This was another opportunity for the tableaus to shine again. The neighbourhood museum 'Museum café Lombok' was founded by activist residents and the Oud-Lombok Foundation. The museum tried to capture the essence of the building while it was a grocery store. This was called the 'Reminiscence Project'. Attention was paid to the stories of all local residents and how they were connected with each other. This was a real community project. Both labour migrants (mainly from Turkish and Moroccan backgrounds) and students were involved in the museum. In 2009 the museum was eventually replaced by the culture café, Kopi Susu. The former De Gruyter building is still an important meeting place in the neighbourhood.

Museum Lombok

At Kopi Susu, one can enjoy a nice cup of coffee, and one of the largest coffee sellers in the Netherlands still operates a factory and heritage centre here in Utrecht. Like Kopi Susu, the company that is today Douwe Egberts has its origins as a shop of colonial goods called De Witte Os ('The White Ox'). It was not until 1780, when Douwe Egberts took over the company, that the name started to become known throughout the Netherlands. After 1920, the company decided to specialize in coffee, tobacco and tea. In 1919, Douwe Egberts established a factory for coffee roasting and packaging in Utrecht on the Catharijnekade. With the increasing popularity and growth of the company, there was need for a bigger place and Douwe Egberts moved to the Keulsekade just outside Lombok ten years later.

Shortly after, the company was known as 'Douwe Egberts: Coffee, Tea and Tobacco'. Even though there is no direct link to colonialism in the name, the products do bear traces of a colonial past. These traces were still visible in the company's tea packaging in the 1970s and 1980s, which bore the logo of the VOC (1). Coffee also has a heritage tying it to the Dutch colonial past. Coffee has become one of the most consumed products in many societies today (2). However, coffee has travelled a long way to become such an important part of our life, especially in the Netherlands, and this can shed light on different aspects of Dutch history (3). One of the main figures encouraging the cultivation of coffee, for example, was Abraham van Riebeeck (see van Riebeeckstraat), who, as governor-general of the VOC, focused on cultivating coffee on the island of Java between 1708 and 1713 (4).

The archipelago that made up the Dutch East Indies had the perfect weather conditions to grow coffee beans and the product became a major trading good. In 1699, the Dutch took coffee plants to Batavia (today Jakarta) to develop its production and export (5). During the seventeenth century, the Netherlands played a crucial role in spreading coffee to the world (6). During the Dutch Golden Age, coffee was brought to South East Asia and to Central America. Like the associated sugar industry, coffee plantations in Suriname were run using slave labour (7). Slavery was not abolished in Suriname until 1863. After that, enslaved people from Africa were replaced with indentured labour, mostly British Indian and Javanese immigrant men and women, whose wages and mobility was restricted by plantation owners. These labourers would protest against their living and working conditions by refusing to work, absenteeism, sabotage, strikes and other subversive actions (8). Thus, commodities such as your ordinary cup of coffee have a more far-reaching and complex colonial history than you might think.


  • David Grigg, "The Worlds of Tea and Coffee: Patterns of Consumption," GeoJournal 57, no. 4 (2002), 283-294.
  • Alex van Stipriaan, "Plantages in Beweging." In Surinaams Contrast: Roofbouw En Overleven in Een Caraïbische Plantagekolonie, 1750-1863 (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 46-73; Pim Reinders, Thera Wijsenbeek-Olthuis and Steven Braat, Koffie in Nederland: Vier Eeuwen Cultuurgeschiedenis (Zutphen/Delft: Walburg Pers/Gemeente Musea Delft, 1994).
  • L.P. van de Putten, Ambitie en Onvermogen: gouverneur-generaals van Nederlands-Indië 1610-1796 ; Pim de Zwart, 'Koffie, wereldhandel en consumptierevolutie', in: Lex Heerma van Voss et al. (eds), Wereldgeschiedenis van Nederland (Amsterdam 2018), 275-279.
  • Reinders et al., Koffie in Nederland .
  • John J. McCusker, History of World Trade since 1450 (Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006).
  • Johannes Postma, The Dutch in the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1600-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 174-200; Alex van Stipriaan, Surinaams Contrast: Roofbouw en Overleven in een Caraïbische 13 Plantagekolonie, 1750-1863 (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 46-73; van Stipriaan, 'The Suriname rat race: labour and technology on sugar plantations, 1750-1900', New West Indian Guide 1/2 (1989), 95.
  • Rosemarijn Hoefte, 'Female indentured labor in Suriname: for better or for worse?', Boletín de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 42 (June 1987), pp. 55-70.

Directions to: 7 Abel Tasmanstraat

Cross the street. On the right side you will see seven tiles on Abel Tasmanstraat.
The tour covers 12 points in the Lombok neighbourhood. It begins at Molen de Ster. Click on the map for more information about this point...

De Bitterzoete Route
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