Luwak Coffee: Brief Story of the World’s Most Exotic Coffee

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Have ever you heard of this very expensive, exotic and rare coffee called “kopi luwak”? This type of coffee is made from beans eaten and passed by the palm civet before they are harvested.

Although all popular types of coffee taste differently, and each coffee is unique to each other, Luwak coffee is fairly very special.

In recent years, the most expensive coffee in the world has turned up in unlikely places: In London’s Selfridges food hall, on the menu of New York City’s Four Seasons Restaurant, and in a hip new café on a trendy Tokyo block. Until recently, no one knew for sure where this “civet coffee” came from — a mystery that made it all the more exotic and tantalizing to adventurous taste buds worldwide.

Focus brief story of Luwak Coffee

What is Luwak Coffee?

Luwak coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world that produced from coffee beans that is digested by the Indonesian palm civet and then excreted.

Luwak coffee is not actually a type of coffee but a method of production. The palm civet knows how to choose the beans to eat (most ripe and flawless coffee cherries). During the digestion process, only coffee skin is digested while coffee beans come out together with the dirt.

These coffee beans have a unique aroma and flavour, often described as earthy, musty, syrupy, smooth, and chocolate undertones. Not everyone can like this coffee because many are disgusted by the essential ingredients of civet’s feces. Because of this, Luwak coffee has also received a bad nickname in various countries. The term most used is “cat poop coffee.”

Focus brief story of Luwak Coffee
Image credit: Berita-Terbaru.NET

The Origin of Luwak Coffee

Luwak coffee is closely connected with coffee production in Indonesia. Indonesian farmers were forced to grow coffee by the colonial government from 1830 to 1870 under the Cultuur stelsel (Cultivation system).

The farmers forbid picking any fruit for personal consumption. So they began noticing coffee bean from civet’s droppings, which were then cleaned, roasted and brewed. Since then, Luwak coffee has become popular among farmers until it is finally recognized by the Dutch.

The Production Process

In general, the process of producing Luwak coffee is similar to other coffees. The differences though are in the natural fermentation on the civet’s digestive tract.

During the digestion process, the coffee bean is still intact and undergo a fermentation process by several enzymes that break down complex compounds such as protein to become simpler components such as peptides and amino acids which are the main precursor compound in the formation of aroma in coffee. The civet’s feces are collected and cleaned using running water 5-7 times until it is spotless. The roasting process is carried out to a medium roast level so that the unique character of Luwak coffee is maintained.

Some breeding areas in Indonesia have even opened civet coffee cafes so that visitors can enjoy this most expensive coffee immediately after roasting.

The Expensive Price

Because of the long production process and limited quantities, Luwak coffee is more expensive than regular coffee. The price of wild Indonesian civet coffee in the market reaches more than IDR 1,000,000 per kg. A cup of Luwak coffee in Jakarta, for example, costs around IDR 70,000 per cup.

Overseas, a cup of this drink costs around $35 or $600 per pound. I bet this makes you think Luwak Coffee as being the No.1 most expensive drink in the world. But today, that’s not the case anymore. Instead, it is one of the most expensive coffees globally, with the highest-ranking currently occupied by elephant coffee from Thailand, known as black ivory coffee, at $1800 per kilogram.

Hence its rarity and price point today– kopi luwaks are not available just everywhere.

The Controversies

But unfortunately, “kopi luwak” is criticized by many people due to some ethical concerns. The unbalanced amount of supply and demand makes some inhumane  treat and abuse to the civet. Some unscrupulous individuals forces the civet to eat a lot of coffee every day, even though the civet is actually an animal that consumes a variety of foods, from grains vegetables to insects. This makes the quality of Luwak coffee decrease.

This coffee is still undeniably unique and delicious. The production process delivers superior qualities often found in just an average brew. However, this process also creates an implacable way of treating a small animal.

Caged Civets are almost exclusively used and force-fed any coffee cherries that hamper the careful selection process. Laila Dimyati, a coffee green bean buyer & Q grader in Indonesia, has witnessed producers faking civet coffee by peeling the coffee’s skin, then drying the coffee cherries that still have mucilage. When the mucus almost dries up, they clench their coffee until it forms like mongoose feces.

However, while there are farms that feed any mediocre coffee cherries to the civet, some growers still do it righteously. When letting nature take its course, feeding the animals naturally, it creates a quality coffee. So, if you want to buy Luwak coffee, make sure you buy it in a trusted place to get an original and ethically sourced coffee.

Focus brief story of Luwak Coffee

Health Benefits

Besides having a distinctive aroma and flavour, Luwak coffee has many health benefits. It does not interfere with the heart and stomach, which is the biggest coffee lovers’ problem.

Luwak coffee also contains some phytochemical compounds that can function as antioxidants to reduce cancer risk and prevent cell damage. Besides, the content that is owned by Luwak coffee is also able to reduce the risk of diabetes.

However, just like other of coffee types, Luwak coffee can affect your sleep, cause insomnia, restlessness, stomach upset, increased heart and breathing rate if consumed in excess.

Final Words

The increasing demand for the world Luwak coffee has caused the hunting of civet animals which can threaten wild civet’s populations in nature. To overcome this, some effort to produce Luwak coffee without using Luwak animal began to develop; one of them is fermentation using microbes from civet’s digestion or the in vitro fermentation technique.

The results show that this method can produce almost the same quality coffee as the original civet coffee. Also, it can make Luwak coffee with an amount that can be adjusted to the needs more and without hurting the civets.

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