If you have dived into the world of specialized coffees or gone in search of the strangest or most expensive coffee, you have probably no doubt heard of the famous Kopi Luwak.
Many people think that this specialty coffee is among some of the most prestigious coffees found in the world. In the United States, a copy of Kopi Luwak can sell for as much as $ 80.
I can not argue that it costs a small fortune and has a unique way of being treated that you will discover, but there is a really good reason why you might want to give Kopi Luwak a hard pass.
Kopi Luwak coffee is bad news for Civets, and as you will learn, the way animals are often treated paints a gloomy picture.
– a cup of coffee is really worth it.
What is Kopi Luwak coffee?
You know you drink poop coffee, right? It’s cat fear! Well, there’s a little more to it than that.
The name is not quite accurate as it is not a cat pushing. It is a small animal called an Asian palm civet.
These small creatures are native to Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
At night, these cat-like animals roam the woods, using their keen sense of smell and strong eyesight to seek out and eat only the most ripe coffee cherries.
The wild Civet completely digests the coffee berry fruit and the beans are excreted in their feces, which are then collected, cleaned and roasted.
The result is Kopi Luwak coffee!
The word Kopi comes from the Indonesian Bahasa, which means coffee, and Luwak is the Indonesian name for Palm Civet.
While it may sound disgusting, the partially digested coffee beans are completely safe to drink. Once assembled, the outer layers of the coffee bean are removed, processed, and the remaining coffee beans are then thoroughly cleaned before roasting and packing.
The common misconception about Kopi Luwak is that it is a type of coffee. But it is actually a very bizarre coffee treatment method where Palm Civet performs the treatment.
The story of Kopi Luwak coffee
The roots of how Kopi Luwak originated can be traced back to the 18th century, when the Dutch began to establish coffee plantations on Sumatra and other first-class growth sites in Indonesia.
The story goes that the locals were not allowed to harvest coffee beans for their own consumption.
After noticing that the wild Palm Civets ate ripe coffee cherries and then left the undigested coffee seeds in their excrement, the locals began to clean, roast, grind and brew their coffee from these discarded beans.
The resulting brewed coffee was a unique aromatic blend that even the Dutch would eventually develop a taste for.
However, it was not until tourism became popular in Bali that this ‘delicacy’ developed more interest and demand in the western part of the world.
Why is Kopi Luwak so expensive?
If you think it’s crazy how these coffee beans are produced, wait until you hear how much they cost.
The Kopi Luwak coffee beans sell for between $ 100 and $ 600 per serving. pound. It is about 20 to 60 times more expensive than conventional coffee beans.
“You must fuck me.”
Unlike regular coffee beans, the high price is directly a result of the long, tedious growing process and the unique history that comes with it. The civet will in nature eat only the most ripe coffee cherries; once ingested, they pass through the digestive system and ferment.
It is this bizarre coffee treatment method that gives the coffee its flavor profile, and only coffee that a Palm Civet has digested can be labeled as authentic Kopi Luwak.
To be honest, Kopi Luwak’s fame is more about the novelty of prayer and far less about taste. The history, the “expensive-intensive” process and the demand make it premium.
How does Civet coffee taste?
If you have the opportunity to taste Kopi Luwak, make sure you drink coffee sourced from 100% cage-free Civets.
When it comes to taste, it seems that the digestive system causes fermentation and adds a unique flavor to the coffee beans.
A good example of similar processes in the coffee industry are wet-processed or fermented types of coffee. Both of these are known to have superior flavor profiles compared to regular dry-processed coffee.
Similarly, when coffee cherries are eaten and pass through Palm Civet’s digestive tract, they undergo a form of wet treatment due to acidification in the stomach and fermentation caused by the natural intestinal microflora.
In traditional coffee wet treatment methods, lactic acid bacteria are often introduced.
These are the same bacteria and natural acids found inside the digestive tract of Civet. The unique Kopi Luwak coffee taste is due to a form of wet treatment that takes place right inside the animal’s digestive system.
The unique taste profile is often described as having “jungle” notes, whatever that means. But from my experience, I could definitely distinguish syrupy, earthy, musty notes with rich chocolate undertones – It’s complex, but a bit characterless.
One thing I can say is that Civet coffee beans have almost no bitterness. This may be because the digestive process breaks down many of the proteins from the beans.
To my understanding, it is primarily the proteins that cause most of the bitterness during the roasting process, and the lower levels of proteins found in Kopi Luwak coffee reduce the bitterness.
Is Civet Kopi Luwak Coffee Cruel?
So this is where the problems arise.
Kopi Luwak is almost never collected in the wild. Finding the feces of a Civet in the desert is a laborious task that most farmers are not willing to take on.
As expected, the high coffee bean price has led to unconventional producers trying to make more Kopi Luwak, which has caused quite a bit of controversy.
Where there is profit to be made, companies will often look to increase their profits, and unfortunately, Palm Civet is at the wrong end of this business deal.
Almost all commercial Kopi Luwak coffee is processed by keeping Civets in small cages. The caged Civet is often removed from nature and put in small cages on coffee plantations with a diet of only coffee cherries.
Civets in the wild will eat a diet that includes fruits, insects and reptiles; the restrictive diet consisting only of coffee often leads to malnutrition and other health problems.
Teams from London World Animal Protection and Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit inspected the conditions at 16 plantations in Bali, where about 50 palm civets were kept in cages in tiny cages.
They cataloged several quarries where the coffee plantation owners had not met basic animal welfare requirements.
Neil D’Cruze, a researcher on the research team, said.
“Some of these cages were literally the smallest – we would call them rabbit huts. They are completely soaked with urine and excrement everywhere.”
Many of the captured Civets were observed to be malnourished and extremely thin due to being force-fed with the restrictive coffee cherry diet.
Others were hyped up on a large amount of caffeine they had ingested, and clean water and sanitary living conditions were lacking.
What is also particularly disturbing about these shy nocturnal animals is that they appear to tourists during the day.
The good news is that many of these cruel methods of making coffee have been banned by local governments. The ‘industrialized’ version of Kopi Luwak production has begun to decline.
Yet it has not been completely interrupted in small local plantations, where the peasants depend on its illegitimate production for their living wage.
Here is our bid for this controversial Civet coffee
Is Civet coffee the best in the world? Honestly, the price reflects the story and gimmick behind this unique coffee.
There are far better tasting coffees from Indonesia and more that do not exploit animals cruelly. Add to that the fact that many coffee lovers claim that Kopi Luwak has an inferior taste and you may want to reconsider buying a bag.
During the time of the Dutch coffee plantations, scouring for Civet excrement probably resulted in a coffee with a better taste.
Today, the methods of coffee cultivation and processing have improved so much that you will undoubtedly get a better tasting cup from a bag of good quality coffee beans with a single origin.
But if curiosity has prevailed and you want to try a cup of Civet cat coffee to determine if the hype surrounding this coffee is worthy, some companies offer more ethical Kopi Luwak coffee made from free-range Civets.
Our recommendation is Volcanica Coffee’s Kopi Luwak, a wildly collected coffee that even comes with a certificate of authenticity.