Kopi Luwak, a Cat’s Treasure

Bali Kopi Luwak Coffee Roasting

Most of you have probably heard of Kopi Luwak, or by its more colloquial name, Cat Poop Coffee. Really, people? Drinking coffee that came from a cat’s rear end? Some coffee lovers will have you know that not only is it okay, they will pay a high price for it. So what exactly is it?

Civet cat (Luwak) in Kepahiang

Civet cat (Luwak) in Kepahiang

The term Kopi Luwak, luwak is loosely translated as mongoose or civet in Indonesia, is used to refer to the seeds of the coffee berries that have been defecated by the civet cat. Technically, Kopi Luwak is not a variety of coffee (e.g. Blue Mountain, Colombian, Java etc.) but rather describes how the coffee has been processed. The Asian palm civet, also known as the toddy cat, sniffs out the choicest beans and eats them for their outer pulp. The beans ferment in the civet’s digestive tract and, because it can’t be digested, gets pooped out together with everything else. This fermentation supposedly brings out the natural sugars in the beans, and, together with the civet’s stomach enzymes, impart a unique taste to the coffee. You really have to wonder about the people who first said to themselves “I’m totally going to pick stuff out of that creature’s poop and brew it.” Ok it’s the Dutch in colonial Indonesia. I rank them with the people who said “The buah keluak is poisonous but I’m going try to eat it anyway.”

Due of the way the coffee is processed, there is only so much beans a civet can ingest, it is considered extremely rare and valuable, with some places pricing them at US$600 per pound. With such prices, it’s not surprising that a huge industry has sprouted up around Kopi Luwak, with some not-so-ethical processing methods, frauds and fraud detection, and even a method that takes the cats and their pooping out of the equation.

Whichever way you look at it, there is no denying a good segment of people are willing to pay sky-high prices for it’s unique taste. After all, it’s really up to each individual’s taste preference balanced off with the thickness of their wallet.

Feature Photo / ‘Bali Kopi Luwak Coffee Roasting‘ courtesy of ©EzDingo
Civet cat (Luwak) in Kepahiang‘ by Leendertz / CC BY