The world’s most expensive coffee comes from… poop
Have you ever heard of the palm civet? It is a small nocturnal mammal native to tropical Asia which we, fooled Westerners, would take for a cat crossed with a badger and a panther.
If you’re holding a cup of coffee, you might want to drink it up before continuing on reading. Why am I talking about palm civets? Because it is in this funny creature’s excrements that one finds the « kopi luwak », aka the world’s most expensive and rarest coffee.
The civet, which used to be the coffee growers’ public enemy #1 has become the King of the coffee plantations. When the night falls, that is where the little animal blithely treats itself with the ripped coffee cherries, only the best ones, but as it’s not able to digest them, it actually defecates them intact. During its digestion, a mix of enzymes generates a chemical reaction which gives a unique taste to the coffee.
This 100% natural fermentation partly explains the exorbitant price of this extraordinary coffee; a cup of kopi luwak can cost you up to 30€. But not only! It takes lots of hard work essentially by hand to produce kopi luwak. Coffee pickers must pick the defecated coffee cherries directly on the ground, smash the shell, rinse them off once, then meticulously clean them, let them dry and eventually sort them out to keep only the best beans. In the end, this might represent only a third of the harvest.
Watch out: rarity also means fraud (and even worse…), whether here or over there in Asia! Many blend a couple of civet beans with second-rate coffee and claim their “blend” is 100% kopi luwak. Among those are not only dishonest coffee roasters and growers but also big coffee brands that we see every day which have very little control over their beans’ origin, as they buy through a third provider. The cupidity of some others goes even further. Some coffee growers catch palm civets to force them to produce the precious coffee – this is pure cruelty for an animal which can bear neither captivity nor daylight (remember: it’s a nocturnal mammal), leading on top to a disgusting coffee.
Next time you plan on crazy adventures in Asia, think twice before succumbing to the temptation of a fancy ad which would invite you to taste “the best cup of kopi luwak ever”. There is unfortunately hardly a way to be sure what really is in that cup but one can assume that the safest way to enjoy a true kopi luwak would be to go to meet coffee growers and to assess the conditions of production by yourself.