Have you ever wondered where the world’s most expensive coffee comes from? Or more importantly, what it is made out of? The answer may surprise you. Hailing from Indonesia and Africa, the most expensive coffee in the world is made from coffee beans found in the excrement of the civet, a small Asian mammal.
The official name of the coffee is Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, and is in reference to the animal that eats the coffee berries, partially digests them, and then excretes the beans. The word ‘kopi’ is the Indonesian term for coffee, and ‘luwak’ is the local name for the civet, leaving us with a loaded name for a justifiably rare coffee.
The red beans of the world’s most expensive coffee can cost upwards of $600 per pound and $100 a cup in some parts of the world. Yet if you can get over the fact you are drinking coffee derived from a nocturnal, cat-like animal’s feces, you may just be in for the most delicious cup of Joe of your lifetime. If not, it’ll at least be the most interesting cup of coffee you’ve ever had.
Now that I’ve got your attention, you’re probably interested in what, exactly, a civet is, what makes its poo so special, and how we get from feces to the most expensive coffee in the world.
The Civet: What’s The Big Deal?
There are over a dozen species of civit, but they’d be beset described as a cross between a weasel, raccoon, and a cat. he Asian palm civet is the particular species that produces the oh-so-special fecal matter. This mammal appears to have quite the taste for coffee berries; ingesting the previously sorted berries, partially digesting them, and then excreting the beans.
During the digestive process the flesh of the coffee cherry is removed, leaving the coffee bean inside an inner skin. The acids of the civet’s stomach soak the beans and alter to final taste. The beans are then harvested from the fecal matter and used in the coffee-making process. The civet boasts unique enzymes in its stomach, which is where the world’s most expensive coffee gets its prized aroma and bitter taste from.
However, there have been recent studies that show civets are being treated inhumanely and that their population is even decreasing because of the large demand for the coffee. There are is a current move to push for more ethical treatment of the mammals and there are a number of civet coffee producers that treat the animals and harvest the beans in a humane manner, making it much easier to stomach.
Harvest Time: How The Coffee Is Made
Once the civet excretes the coffee cherries, the harvesting shall commence. It is imperative that once the beans are plucked from the fecal matter they are set out to dry in the sun for several hours. Excess water and remnants of the civet’s digestive system are detrimental to the use and end result of the beans. If harvested and the ensuing steps are strictly followed, it is said that the beans from the feces make a dark, smooth, rich, smokey flavored coffee that is incomparable to any other.
So while the beginning of the coffee-making process is all about the civet’s role, the following steps rely on humans. Each and every bean is carefully hand-washed, ensuring none of the extra gunk is left. Once the washing and drying process has been completed, workers must manually inspect each and every bean to ensure they are up to code. If the coffee bean is either not fully dried or if some of the digestive track remains, it will undoubtedly alter the taste of the coffee and all the hard work will be for nothing.
Lastly, the beans are lightly roasted and ready to be shipped off and consumed by coffee connoisseurs worldwide. Its title as the world’s most expensive coffee is in part due to the labor-intensive process of harvesting the beans and the steps thereafter, as well as the unorthodox practice of using civets and their feces.
How Do I Get Some?
One of crazy things about Kopi Luwak (and one of the things that makes it such a rarity!) is that only 1,000 pounds are on the worldwide market every year. This is in part due to the highly involved nature of the harvesting process, and the fact Kopi Luwak coffee is reliant upon the civet consuming a large amount of coffee berries and excreting them in an accessible manner for workers.
Prices can range anywhere from $10 for the tiniest cup to more than $100 a cup, depending on your location! So you’re probably asking yourself, ‘is it worth it?’ The answer to that question varies depending on who you ask, but much of the consensus seems to be that it isn’t necessarily such an anomoly because of the taste, but because of the process.
Controversary Surrounding The Civet
With the spotlight recently shining on Kopi Luwak coffee and the civet, it seems the demand for the product has skyrocketed, which is not necessarily a good thing. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to make in the first place, the high level of demand has created a competitive atmosphere for harvesters, leading them to sometimes use dishonest and inhumane practices. Some individuals have even turned to putting the civets, a wild mammal, in cages to ensure they are eating and excreting the coffee berries. However, these practices have become more widely known and there are now a series of undertakings in place to stop this treatment of the civet.
So is it worth it; the world’s most expensive coffee, made from civet-feces? Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur with a finely tuned palette, or just a leisure caffeine addict, that’s ultimately for you to decide.