Ever heard of Kopi Luwak? If no, sit back and read about the world’s most expensive coffee since it is made from part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet.
Yes, the world’s most expensive coffee is made from poop!
The fermentation of this coffee is done inside the civet’s intestines, and after being defecated with other fecal matter, the beans are collected. The price for a single cup of kopi luwak coffee runs $35 (Sh3500) to $80 (Sh8,000) and half kilo bag of beans costs $100 (Sh10,000) to $600 (Sh60,000).
This is the reason Kopi Luwak is also called cat poop coffee or civet cat coffee because the faeces of this cat will be collected, cleaned and sold as Kopi Luwak for human consumption.
These nocturnal animals – the size of a domestic cat – roam the rainforests in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi. Here, they raid fresh fruit fields and not only eat the fresh fruit crops but also mark their territory with the strong scent given off by glands near the genitals.
Researchers say that it is through the passing of excreted coffee beans past these glands that gives kopi luwak its unique taste.
Initially, coffee farmers saw civets as pests but as the specialised coffee industry grew and tourism increased to Indonesia, civets became “protected” creatures – but for the financial gain of farmers and zoos.
When kopi luwak farmers realised collecting scat from the wild was too taxing and time-consuming, they began trapping these delicate creatures and forcing them into captivity where they are force-fed only coffee cherries.
The National Geographic has looked at some of the conditions which this coffee is produced and published views of researchers from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and the London-based nonprofit World Animal Protection.
The researchers assessed the living conditions of nearly 50 wild civets held in cages at 16 plantations on Bali. The results, published painted a grim picture on Kopi Luwak.
“From the size and sanitation of the cages to the ability of their occupants to act like normal civets, every plantation the researchers visited failed basic animal welfare requirements,” wrote the National Geographic.
“Some of these cages were literally the tiniest—we would call them rabbit hutches. They’re absolutely soaked through with urine and droppings all over the place,” said Neil D’Cruze, one of the researchers.
Some critics say that Kopi luwak is not delicious. And is a ridiculous, literally disgusting fad that retards the public valuation of specialty coffee.
But the believers say that this specialty coffee has been produced in that manner for ages and was discovered by native farmers in Indonesia during the colonial period of the 19th century, when the Dutch forbade local workers from harvesting their own coffee.
The local collectors gathered the civet excretion, removed the beans, washed them well, and then air-dried them. Once the thin outer skin on the beans is removed, they are sorted and stored for roasting. Fans of kopi luwak think the unusual fermentation process refines the beans’ flavour. The distinct flavour may derive from the animal’s gut and digestive fluids.
Today, this is a huge specialty industry.