You drank what?
Those of you who know me know I often rail about the injustices perpetuated upon coffee. From a mainstream retailer over-roasting to the atrocity that is instant coffee. I fully realize there are far more noble causes, but where would we be without our cup of coffee, java, joe, rocket fuel? I travel with my own French press, grinder, and often to places associated with coffee, purchasing fresh beans in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Kona and Indonesia. I have written about coffee, I go out of my way to enjoy unique coffee experiences; it’s even on my social media profiles. In short I am a coffee junkie maybe even I dare say, a snob. So it may come as a surprise that I willingly drank coffee that could quite possibly be the biggest insult to the bean…. ever.
Kopi Luwak the most expensive cup of coffee.
Kopi luwak is Indonesian - Kopi being the word for coffee and luwak , the common name for the Asian Palm Civet. It is the world’s most expensive coffee costing anywhere from $100 to $600 USD a pound. The reason for this high price is the exceptional smoothness of the coffee with a distinctive lack of bitterness, but the main reason is not so much the beans, or where they are grown, but what happens to them before they reach your cup. The coffee cherries are a favorite food of the luwak, a small weasel-like cat that lives throughout India, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The civets eat the coffee cherries and putting this as delicately as possible, they then….pass the beans. Some unfortunate soul collects the beans washes, sun dries, and then roasts them after that, some much more fortunate person sells the coffee for a very large sum.
How did we get to the point of drinking weasel poop coffee?
Originally discovered by the Indonesians working in the Colonial Dutch coffee plantations, the workers were bemused by the fuss over the coffee but were not permitted to partake in the consumption of the profitable crop. In a case of curiosity not killing the cat, the local workers collected the undigested coffee beans washed them thoroughly and roasted them so that they may consume the caffeinated goodness. And you thought that you were desperate for a cup of coffee this morning! In a strange twist of irony the “crappy” coffee turned out to be a much better and more profitable commodity even if it purposed a slight marketing challenge, not quite the romantic image of Juan Valdez picking coffee on a shady mountain side in Columbia.
Why would you want to drink Kopi Luwak?
The civets consume the beans at the perfect state of development. Their stomachs digest the bean’s coverings and start fermenting the beans. The juices modify the proteins in the beans resulting in an altered flavor. The day and a half that the beans spend in the civets digestive tract causes both the fermentation and germination through malting (the starch breaks down into sugars), resulting in a less bitter unique flavor. Scientific studies have shown that the washing process removed all “significant” amounts of harmful organisms while the high levels of heat in the roasting process destroy anything that might be left over.
Where does Kopi Luwak beans come from?
The majority of Kopi Luwak is produced on farms where civets are either caged or contained within a defined boundary. Originally it was collected in the wild where the civets would defecate to mark their territories making the beans easier to locate. Vietnamese weasel poop coffee is still collected in the wild and results in the most expensive cup costing $3,000 USD a pound. Indonesia, primarily Sumatra but all the way down to Bali, is the main producer of Kopi Luwak but it can be found throughout southeast Asia and the Philippines. In Vietnam it is called cà phê Chồn ‘weasel coffee’ a Vietnamese company Trung Nguyen has developed a chemical process that replicates the digestive process producing a similar flavor without the messy clean up or hassle to the civets.
Is it worth it?
The flavor varies based off of the coffee beans and the roasting. There is a distinct lack of bitterness even in the darkest of roasts. It is a smooth, flavorful cup of coffee. The elevated cost will most likely not make it a candidate for your morning cup of joe. If however you are somewhere that it is locally produced and quite a bit cheaper, I highly recommend trying a cup. It will certainty add to your adventuresome travel stories and when someone complains about a “crappy” cup of coffee you can consider yourself an expert.
Additional coffee blog: Traditional Arabic Coffee Service in the United Arab Emirates
What do you think, would you try weasel poop coffee? Have you tried it, tell us about your experience.