Kopi luwak, one of the world’s most expensive types of coffee, is made from – say eewwww – the droppings of a forest animal which likes eating coffee beans.
This coffee is the ish. This coffee is the sh**!
The Asian palm civet, (called luwak in Indonesia) is the name of the small nocturnal animal in Southeast Asia whose faeces are used to make the expensive drink, produced mainly in the islands of Indonesia.
Coffee beans are an integral part of the diet of the Asian palm civet which eats berries, fruits, other plants, small insects and mammals. When the civet eats the beans, they are partially digested and excreted in medium-sized bundles. The beans are then collected by farmers and separated from the rest of the excrement for further processing.
The reason for all this is the palm civet’s digestive tract which provides a biological fermentation that farmers find special and crucial for the quality of the coffee.
The natural fermentation that the Asian palm civet provides is so prized that over the years, the collection of partially-digested beans from its droppings in the wild has given way to capturing the animals, caging them in farms and forcefully feeding them coffee just for the purpose of making Kopi luwak.
Apparently, this has not gone down well with animal protection groups who are concerned about conservation of the animal’s population. Asian palm civets get locked in small cages and have to endure poor nutrition. Coffee beans constitute only a small part of their diet which they are even unable to digest properly. The animals also exhibit some abnormal behaviour and signs of distress when caged.
And the concern from animal rights groups may be justified because there is nothing really special about Kopi luwak. It has been found not to have any special properties. It is simply expensive because it is a bit rare and famous. Furthermore, some artificial processes have been developed to mimic the fermentation that the civet’s digestive tract provides.