You may be surprised that one of the most exquisite and expensive coffees in the world comes out of a civet cat’s bum
Kopi luwak (luwak coffee) is created when coffee cherries are eaten by the palm civet cat, known as musang luwak.
The animal excretes the indigestible coffee beans, which are then collected and processed for consumption. This coffee is known as kopi luwak.ive and much sought after by coffee connoisseurs. It even took a starring role in the movie The Bucket List, in which the protagonists needed to have a sip before they kicked the bucket.
Fifty grams of roasted luwak coffee beans costs about S$100. Some cafes sell a cup of brewed luwak coffee for $80. If it’s not expensive, it’s not the real thing.
The luwak coffee has an intense aroma and distinct flavour that rivals the best Sumatran single-origin coffee. What makes it so good is that the palm civet cat eats only the best and ripest coffee cherries. Its digestive tract then imparts enzymes and reactions to further process the beans while softening their acidity content, thus imparting wonderful flavours.
Kopi luwak is a name for any bean collected from the excrement of palm civet cats; hence the taste may vary with the type and origin of beans ingested, processing subsequent to collection, roasting, aging and brewing.
Sumatra Coffee Country
You’ll learn a lot more in Sumatra coffee country. There, you’ll also get to enjoy some adventure, the stunning volcanic landscapes and see how the locals live and cultivate coffee.
Sumatra nestles astride the Straits of Malacca, long fought over by a variety of colonial powers including the Dutch, British, Japanese and Chinese for its rich hinterland, spices and coffee. Ethnic peoples in this region include the Batak with their own language, ceremonies and traditions.
Visit the Batak houses with their distinctive pointy roofs. These houses are on stilts so that the families’ animals such as pigs and buffaloes can live underneath. You can also explore the ancient graves of Batak kings, and enjoy traditional dance performances and beautiful arts and crafts.
The coffee plantations vary in size, from those belonging to business conglomerates to small cottage industries and family-run enterprises. For the kopi luwak tours and plantations, make sure you choose those where the coffee is collected from the ground droppings of wild palm civet cats and not the caged animals.
These caged civet cats live in small enclosures with hardly any room to move. They have no freedom and are forced to eat only coffee cherries.
Kopi Luwak Tours
Wild kopi luwak tours are also more interesting as you get to explore the natural habitat by torchlight. You hunt at night as the palm civet cat is nocturnal and feeds mainly after sundown. You’re not really after the animal but its poop. If you’re squeamish, your guide will collect it and place it in his basket.
On the hunt, you may come across these palm civet cats as well as other wildlife such as mousedeer, night birds and monkeys.
The next day, after a nice breakfast of nasi goreng or buttered toast and jam and, of course, a cup of steaming luwak coffee, you’ll see how coffee is cultivated, and how the luwak poop is washed, dried and processed into fine aromatic coffee.
This is certainly a unique experience.
By Freda Saunders