If you know the name of the cat that pooped your coffee, does that make it single origin?
The worlds most expensive coffee is, drum roll please … cat poop coffee! The proper name for this coffee delicacy is Kopi luwak (kopi ‘lu.a), also known as civet coffee referring to the Asian palm civet who eats coffee cherries and then “poops” the bean for mass production. (By the way, I will be using the word “poop” a lot in this post!)
Kopi luwak is not actually the name of the coffee bean, but the form of processing for the coffee bean. Produced mainly from coffee farms on the islands of Indonesia, the history of kopi luwak dates back to the mid 1800’s. At that time, Indonesia’s coffee industry was owned by the Dutch, who refused to allow the native farmers and coffee plantation workers to harvest beans for personal use.
It wasn’t long before the native workers observed the local Palm Civet, a cat-like animal, eating the coffee cherries and then pooping out the undigested beans. They would collect the Civet coffee bean feces, clean the beans, then roast and ground them. The result was a very tasty coffee experience.
This unique process discovered by natives became highly sought after from Dutch plantation owners.
How Expensive Is Kopi Luwak?
When you visit your favorite coffee shop, you expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $10 for your cup of coffee. Ask for a Kopi Luwak and expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $100 per cup. Depending on your source, the price per pound of Kopi Luwak coffee beans can set you back $100 to $600.
“Authentic” Kopi Luwak means that the coffee your purchasing comes from cherries that have been eaten, digested and “pooped” by a wild civet cat, collected by farmers and sold to a roaster.
Of course, with such a high return for kopi luwak coffee, the market has been flooded with “fake” coffee.
There is probably 5,000 % more kopi luwak sold each year than there is actually produced; production of the legit stuff runs less than 5,000 pounds per year. Why? Because there’s lots of snake oil salesmen packaging up plain Jane inferior commodity grade Indonesian coffees under this banner and trying to get $300 per pound for it. – Mark Prince, @CoffeeGeek
Before You Buy, Know Your Kopi Luwak Source
Keywords to look for, before buying Kopi Luwak are “animal friendly”, “authentic” and “wild civets”. These terms identify coffee beans from wild, free roaming civet cats, that are then collected by local farmers from the forest floor.
There are serious abuses from farmers who cage civets and force feed them coffee cherries for the mass production of the coveted beans. The unsanitary environment for these farmed or caged civet’s results in serious health problems for the animals.
Before purchasing kopi luwak, investigate its origin and use your dollars to support authentic kopi luwak. If you want to purchase authentic kopi luwak coffee, look for official certification from organizations like:
- the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
- the Rainforest Alliance
- and UTZ Certified
In addition, a helpful resource to educate yourself on kopi luwak is the book, Don’t Buy Kopi Luwak Coffee Before You Read This Book – How To Find The Real One.
Why Is Kopi Luwak So Expensive?
The high price for kopi luwak has to do with the uniqueness of the harvesting process and the quality of the coffee it produces. The palm civet doesn’t just eat any coffee cherry it comes across. They are very selective in finding and eating quality coffee berries, containing quality beans. Once the coffee has been eaten, its believed that the digestive processes improve the flavor profile of the coffee bean.
- The coffee cherry is eaten by the civet.
- The pulp and cherry are digested the bean is not. Fermentation occurs while the bean sits in the civet’s digestive tract. The process allows the animals Protease enzymes to soak into the beans, increasing its amino acids.
- In about 24 hours the civet cat “poops” the coffee bean out.
- Coffee farmers collect the poop for processing.
- The beans are then washed, dried and processed for roasting.
Is Kopi Luwak The Most “Craft” Of Coffees?
I’ve never tried kopi luwak coffee and unless someone offers me a taste for free, I probably will not be making the investment. I must admit, it would take some will power to get past the thoughts of cat poop, while drinking kopi luwak. However, its history and the unique processing of the coffee is definitely interesting.
So if you’ve ever tried this VERY “craft” coffee, I would love to hear about your experience. How did it taste? Was it worth the cost? Let me know in the comment section below. Cheers!
Thanks to these helpful resources:
Never miss us!
Receive Craft Beverage Jobs Posts via Email