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Kopi Luwak – The World’s Most Expensive Coffee

During my visit to one of the coffee plantations in Bali, I was in for a pleasant surprise ! I stood before the very source responsible for the world’s most expensive coffee -Kopi Luwak. I had tried Luwak coffee during my trip to Yogyakarta and found it surprisingly tangy in flavor. Tasting Kopi Luwak was one of the best  experiences during that trip and even today I remember the moment when I took the first sip of that coffee.   An average coffee costs around US $5 per cup, but Luwak coffee can cost around US $100 per cup based on the quality of the beans.

The origin of Kopi Luwak is closely associated to Indonesia. In the local language, Kopi means coffee and Luwak refers to the Asian Palm Civet. As the Dutch were fond of coffee, they planted coffee crops in their farms which also included Arabica coffee from Yemen. But they restricted the local farmers to consume the coffee. The locals noticed that wild Asian Civets feasted on these coffee berries and left behind the undigested coffee seeds in their droppings. The natives collected those seeds, cleaned, dried and roasted them to make their own coffee. The aromatic taste and flavor of this coffee that came after the fermentation of the cat’s innards, was richer than the original coffee grown by the Dutch. It became an instant hit even among the Dutch masters!

In Bali, I was delighted to see the Luwak – the star of the story. Luwaks are nocturnal animals and they spend the day sleeping in a tree hollow. It is said that they love coffee berries and only feed on the best of them.

The picture below shows the beans collected from the droppings of Luwak. Coffee beans grow inside a red fruit called “Cherry”. It is then cleaned and roasted. The plantation staff demonstrated the traditional way of roasting the beans over an open fire.

Apart from Kopi Luwak, which was available for tasting, they also presented 12 other variants of coffee and tea with different spices as shown below. I found the taste of each of these unique but my personal favorite was the coconut coffee. The tasting also included the famous Bali Coffee which I found to be strong and bitter. The lady serving tea was surprised when I remarked that Bali Coffee did not suit my palate. She further enquired if I liked their Kopi Luwak. I confessed that I liked the one from Yogyakarta as it was richer in taste. On hearing my forthright and honest feedback, she nodded and went to entertain other customers 😀 .

Though I was happy to see the Civet, I wondered if caging animals would affect the quality of the coffee. Back in the old days, what made the Luwak coffee special yet rare was the fact that the farmers had to hunt for the beans in the wild. Today, if the civets are domesticated, they could potentially be force-fed to increase the produce of Luwak coffee.  The element of natural selection (the civet selecting the best coffee berries) would no longer be true and Kopi Luwak may never taste or feel the same again.

Copyright ©2017, Lakshmi Nair. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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