Kopi Luwak coffee has gained a reputation.
It has done so for being the world’s most sought-after and expensive type of coffee. Knowing the origins and methods of production will give you insight into the reasons behind its exclusivity.
This is true whether you are a coffee enthusiast or simply curious. To learn more about Kopi Luwak coffee, continue reading below.
The True Meaning of Kopi Luwak
In its original language of Indonesian, Kopi Luwak translates directly to mean “civet coffee”.
This is because the coffee itself is internationally known. It’s known for being made from digested and excreted beans. These beans come from the Asian palm civet.
Kopi Luwak is a coffee produced from partially digested coffee fruits. A cat-like animal eats these fruits. This animal is called the Indonesian palm civet.
Before eating, Kopi Luwak coffee undergoes special processing. This processing method ensures it is ready to distribute and sell.
A Coffee-Producing Method
While famous for its cat-like host, Kopi Luwak coffee is not technically coffee at all.
Kopi Luwak is a method of producing coffee. This means that each different batch or roast group of Kopi Luwak coffee is different. It can have many different flavor profiles and aromas.
Kopi Luwak has one main similarity with all other coffee. The beans that go into creating Kopi Luwak coffee come from a few different locations.
All of these locations come from Asia, specifically Indonesia. Indonesia is considered the best location for sourcing the beans.
These are the beans that go into making Kopi Luwak coffee. They tend to come from West Java, Indonesia, in the Pangalengan Highlands.
The History of Kopi Luwak Coffee
Kopi Luwak coffee originated during the 18th century. Sumatra coffee and Java were the only first entering the Dutch colonies.
Arabica coffee was also a newer coffee. It quickly became a cash crop for the Arabian Peninsula, from which it originated.
The Dutch colonists were constantly looking for new coffees and new ways to increase their capital. They decided to include the coffee found in the feces of palm civets. This would help them not to lose out on those potential profits.
Palm civets were eating the coffee cherries that Dutch colonists would otherwise harvest themselves.
Seeing the coffee in good condition after digestion gave them the idea. This idea was to begin roasting it. They did this alongside their other coffee beans.
The Catalyst Behind Europe’s Kopi Luwak Demand
Dutch finances struggled during the Java and Padri wars. These wars took place in the early 1800s. At that time, the finances of the Dutch colonists were in turmoil.
Due to their lack of resources, they decided to forage for the droppings. These droppings from coffee-eating Asian palm civets helped rather than expanding their resources on harvesting.
The unique and strange coffee then made its way to Europe. It began gaining traction as a fashionable and exotic form of coffee. This coffee was reserved only for the wealthy elite.
This notion of Kopi Luwak lived on through the 20th century. It caused coffee prices to rise. It also made competition for exportation to increase well into the 21st century.
All About Asian Palm Civets
The entire basis of Kopi Luwak coffee surrounds the concept of ingestion.
That also automatically includes digestion. This digestion happens via the Asian palm civet. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the animal itself.
What Does A Palm Civet Look Like?
Asian palm civets are similiar to cats or marsupials. They are sometimes even compared to marmots or possums.
The Asian palm civet bodies are thick and long. They have shaggy dark hair that appears brown, black, or gray. The color of their hair depends on the time of year.
While most palm civets can have occasional streaks of white, some even have spots. Others have facial markings that resemble those of a raccoon.
Palm civets have lengthy black tails and nimble back legs. The Asian palm civet is also an excellent jumper and tree climber with a total length of around 21 inches.
It also has a 20-inch tail length. The two features allow it great ease when traversing the treetops quickly.
Though they might appear large, most Asian palm civets only end up weighing 12 pounds. This is equal to the max adulthood weight of some typical housecats.
The Lifestyle of the Palm Civet
Since the Asian palm civet is easy to catch on camera, its life is easy to witness and track. It tends to live a solitary life and spends most of its time alone in hiding.
As a nocturnal animal, palm civets have excellent night vision. They engage in waking hours from midnight to just before four o’clock in the morning.
Palm civets are an essential member of the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park.
They help plant regeneration efforts. This means that palm civets help to pollinate and regenerate native tropical fauna and flora by eating berries. They also eat mangoes, rambutan, and chiku.
In addition to berries and fruits, palm civets eat coffee cherries and small bugs. These bugs are critical to the digestive health of the Asian palm civets.
The fruits and bugs that the palm civet consumes become fully digested and leave the body as feces. The coffee cherries that it eats, however, are left undigested. They almost always appear whole in their excrement.
Inside The Kopi Luwak Production Process
Kopi Luwak coffee is produced by collecting undigested coffee beans in the excrement of the Asian palm civet. Upon collection, all the coffee beans are thoroughly washed. This washing removes the first layer of bacteria.
After the first washing, the coffee beans undergo a second washing. The second washing removes their proactive outer shells. After removing the coffee beans from their hard outer shells, the beans naturally dry.
This drying process occurs by laying them under the hot sun of Indonesia. There, they are collected. This drying process typically occurs in the summer. It is the perfect drying time due to limited rainfall and hot weather conditions.
When the coffee beans are completely dry, they are washed again. This washing removes any remaining tiny pieces of shell. It also removes residue accumulated during the drying process.
Roasting Kopi Luwak Beans
Unlike coffee beans that are roasted and stored, Kopi Luwak coffee beans do not sit in storage. They are roasted at 220 degrees celsius immediately before shipment.
Though the beans come from the feces of an animal, they are not unclean.
The in-depth washing, drying, and roasting process ensures that they are completely clean. This happens before human consumption. This process is what gives the Kopi Luwak coffee its name.
The Unique Taste of Kopi Luwak
Kopi Luwak is unique from most other coffees. This is due to the original flavor palette. Since its first production in the 1800s, its flavors are:
- Lacking bitterness
- No aftertaste
People have also described it as fruity and floral.
This depends on the time of year and the exact location that the beans are collected. It is said to be due to the other fruits eaten by Asian palm civets.
Kopi Luwak vs. Other Coffee Flavors
The current price of Kopi Luwak coffee can range from $35 to $100 per cup. Regularly consumed coffee prices at around $3 per cup.
Kopi Luwak lacks the bitter aftertaste and acidity that a lot of coffee has.
This is because when the palm civet ingests it, the digestion process removes acidity. Without acidity and bitterness, a Kopi Luwak flavor palette presents as smooth and silky.
The Dark Side of Kopi Luwak
Harvesting from Asian palm civets can be seen as a harmless act. Sadly, there are devastating consequences.
Inhumane Treatment of Palm Civets
Many wildlife agencies and forest protection organizations have spoken out against the harvesting of Kopi Luwak, especially in native jungles and natural preserves.
This is why coffee companies have created palm civet plantations.
These plantations are similar to the large agricultural farms found in the United States, where large companies raise chickens, cows, and other livestock.
The civets are raised in inhumane conditions to ensure the fast production of their products.
Malnourishment in Palm Civet Farms
In palm civet farms, young palm civets are often taken from their mothers without receiving proper nourishment.
They are fed a diet consisting of only coffee cherries, which does not possess their required nutrition. The coffee they excrete is thus of lesser quality.
The coffees produced by the malnourished palm civets are bitter and unappetizing.
This flawed system of inhumanely breeding civets produces lesser coffee. It has also gained negative attention from local governments and news outlets around the world.
Some buyers would still rather purchase this lesser Kopi Luwak coffee than abstain from it altogether. It is important, however, to consider the negative ramifications of industrialized Kopi Luwak coffee.
The Appeal of Kopi Luwak
Whether trying Kopi Luwak or a consistent Kopi Luwak drinker, make sure to think twice.
This luxurious and highly sought-after beverage should be harvested and purchased humanely. This is for the safety of both the drinker and the animal.
Kopi Luwak coffee is a unique coffee in its origination, harvesting, cleaning, and roasting processes. Buying only ethically produced Kopi Luwak will benefit the quality of your coffee.
It will also help save the lives of the palm civets who create it.
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