Civet Coffee


Civet Coffee may be the world's most expensive coffee, coming in at about $200 a pound (2010 prices.) Only about half a tonne is produced each year.

To some, the flavour of Civet Coffee is rich and sweet, with undertones of molasses and tobacco. To others, it's just gamey or musky, with a muddy flavour.

Produced in the main Java islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi, it has a unique product method that involves an animal called the Indonesian palm civet cat ("Luwak" in Indonesian.)

The cats are not actually cats; they are related to mongooses. They have a long, pointed muzzle and large, long tail. Nocturnal, they feed on rats, voles, chickens, etc. The "feeding on people's chickens" part has made the critters less than popular in the past. In the Philippines, many locals actually prefer just to eat the cats, seeing them as a nuisance: you ate our chicken dinner, so you're on the menu tonight.

The cat also has a taste for coffee berries from coffee bushes, using their claws to pry the berries they want off. The bushes in the region will be Arabica or Robusta plants.

The coffee beans inside the berries pass through the cat undigested, and end up in the animals dung. The surfaces of the beans get "exfoliated" by the cats' gastric acids, causing the protein in the beans to get partly broken down. Because it is proteins that can make coffee bitter during the roasting process, lower protein helps ensure a less bitter cup of coffee.

"Harvesters" will go around small farm to small farm buying the dung. They pull the beans out of the dung by hand. Not all beans in the dung are useful -- for instance, some of the beans might have got chewed up. The beans are thoroughly washed, then dried in the sun.

Seeing that Western consumers are paying their Indonesian neighbours vast sums of money now for "poop" coffee, even Philippine farmers are ramping up production now. Some producers are trying to breed and keep the animals in cages and feed them there, to increase production. The animals seem to be quite picky, though, about what coffee berries they eat. The caged ones will often only eat half a plate of the berries placed in front of them.

There are many fake versions of Civet Coffee on the market. Canadian food scientist Massimo Marcone has estimated that "About 42% of all the kopi luwaks (Civet Coffees) that are presently on sale are either adulterated or complete fakes." [1]

The Association of Indonesian Coffee Luwak Farmers was created in 2009.

Compare the production of Civet Coffee with that of Argan Oil.

Nutrition

In July 2010, the Indonesian Ulema Council pronounced the coffee "hahal" -- meaning religiously clean for consumption.


History Notes

Locals say the coffee came about because in the days of Dutch plantations, the dung coffee beans were the only ones they were allowed to have for themselves.

Language Notes

Aka Kopi Luwak.


Australian media has dubbed the coffee "crappucino."

Acknowlegements