Kopi luwak coffee is produced from the beans that are collected from the feces of wild civets. Is it safe to drink kopi luwak? Why is it so expensive? Find answers to these questions in this NutriNeat article.
Did You Know?
‘Kopi’ means coffee, and a species of Asian palm civet is known as ‘luwak’ in Indonesia.
Kopi luwak coffee beans are exotic and rare. These beans are collected from the feces of Asian palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), small nocturnal mammals, endemic to Southeast Asia. Civets are also known as toddy cats. Kopi luwak coffee or civet coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago
In South Korea and Japan, the demand for kopi luwak is very high. Jack Nicholson’s film ‘The Bucket List’, released in 2007, is held responsible for the worldwide popularity of civet coffee. Oprah Winfrey also mentioned it a few times on her show, and out of curiosity, people started searching for it. Here are some interesting facts about kopi luwak.
How is Kopi Luwak Coffee Made?
To produce kopi luwak coffee, coffee cherries need to be eaten, digested, and excreted by the civet cat. Wild civets eat only the sweetest, fully-ripened, best-quality, red berries that contain better coffee beans. In the digestive tract of a civet, the protease enzymes react with the beans and reduce the acidity of the beans. However, civets cannot digest the beans and the partially digested beans are excreted through their feces. Local farmers collect the beans from the feces, wash them, and sell them to roasters to prepare them for human consumption.
Is Kopi Luwak Coffee Safe to Drink?
There is nothing unsafe or unhealthy with kopi luwak. Although the beans are collected from the droppings of a wild animal, they are thoroughly cleaned. Proper hygiene is maintained during the production of this coffee. So it is safe to drink kopi luwak.
How much is Kopi Luwak per Cup?
The coffee is sold for about $700 per kilo. The rate may vary according to the demand and also according to the place where it is sold. For example, civet coffee packed in a Britannia-silver and 24-carat gold-plated bags is sold at the British department store Harrods for over $10,000. At Funnel Mill, the famous celebrity hang out coffee shop in Santa Monica, California, you will get a cup of kopi luwak coffee for eighty dollars, and that too by appointment only! And the coffee will be served without cream and sugar. At some other coffee shop, you might get it for $50. Connoisseurs have confirmed that the coffee is worth the exorbitant price tag it carries.
Why is Civet So Expensive?
The process of collecting the droppings of the Asian palm civet, removing the partially digested beans from the droppings, cleaning, fermenting, drying, and roasting them is quite laborious and time-consuming. This makes kopi luwak one of the rarest and also one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Only a small amount of kopi luwak (about 500-1000 pounds) is produced every year. The buyers do not get any refund or are not allowed to exchange this coffee for another product in any case.
What is So Special about Kopi Luwak?
Kopi luwak is the most delicious, mild (low in acidity), and exceptionally smooth coffee. It comes with a hint of chocolate. It is thick and full-bodied, and carries flavors of earth and musk. The coffee leaves a pleasing aftertaste. The secret of its rich, strong aroma and unique flavor (that distinguish it from traditional coffee) lies in the bean selection and digestion by civets. The animal consumes the best-quality, ripest coffee cherries. Its digestive enzymes break down the protein present in the beans. Protein is one of the primary factors that impart bitterness to coffee. Less protein means less bitterness. Study reports say that the levels of citric acid, malic acid, inositol, and pyroglutamic acid in kopi luwak are different from the normal levels of these compounds in traditional coffee. The digestive enzymes and fermentation processes that take place inside the civet’s digestive tract eventually help improve the flavor of the coffee.
Counterfeiting and Animal Abuse
Although the words ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘authentic’ are often found on the labels of kopi luwak coffee, there are chances of you ending up with a fake product or unknowingly participating in animal abuse. Researchers have developed some tests with the help of which they can find whether the coffee is made from the partially digested beans that are collected from civet feces. But, for a common man, it is difficult to evaluate the quality of the product.
An investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia found that producers of kopi luwak use caged civets and still label the coffee as ‘wild sourced’. A BBC team has also reported about the malpractices in this industry. Due to isolation, poor diet, diseases, and small cages, a high mortality rate has been noticed in civets. A 2013 BBC investigation found conditions of animal cruelty in Sumatra. In intensive farming, civets are abused and force-fed a diet that results in short life. As they do not select what they eat, the beans are of poor quality compared to beans collected from the wild. While there are some ethical suppliers of hand-gathered civet coffee, much of the coffee is produced on civet farms. The increasing popularity and steep price of this coffee has created an industry that shouldn’t exist.
Camocim Organic Jacu Bird Coffee is made from the droppings of Jacu bird. And then there is Black Ivory Coffee which is produced from Arabica coffee beans consumed by elephants and collected from their feces. These coffees are more expensive than the kopi luwak. Thanks to the researchers of the University of Florida that kopi luwak can now be produced synthetically without the help of animals. This would help stop animal abuse.