Are you bored of the same old coffee? Are you someone who has tried all the flavors and wants to experiment with something completely new?
Well, if you're someone like me who can't resist but spend money on coffee? Let's talk about Kopi Luwak.
What is Kopi Luwak?
Kopi Luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. If you're an avid cinema-goer, you might have heard of it thanks to its reference from the American movie The Bucket List. Otherwise, a quick Google search will inform you that it is Kopi Luwak, which costs around USD 100 to USD 500 per pound.
Kopi Luwak, apart from being a running gag in the 2007 blockbuster, is also a very interesting coffee. The cherries are the same as used to create regular coffee. So you might wonder, why the price difference and the exclusivity? It has everything to do with a particular animal found in the Javanese ecosystem, the Asian palm civet, and how it interacts with the coffee cherries.
How Kopi Luwak is created
Well, the process will surprise you and might also make you gag a little. It begins with the Asian palm civet selecting the ripest coffee cherries and then eating them (Kopi Luwak translates to "civet coffee").
Once the cherries have traversed the animal's gastrointestinal tract and have been excreted from the other end, the cherries have experienced a combination of enzymatic, acidic, and fermentation treatment.
That's right; it's technically poop. This is caused during digestion, in which the digestive enzymes and gastric juices break down the storage proteins. This ultimately leads to an alteration of the amino acids and directly impacts the aroma of the coffee.
The leavings are then collected, thoroughly cleaned, and then roasted, where they undergo a non-enzymatic Maillard reaction (the name for a chemical reason between amino acids and sugars that gives "browned" food its distinctive flavor. e.g., seared steaks, toasted marshmallows, etc.), after which they are aged, ground and packaged.
Once you get over the ickiness of the whole thing, you'll realize that the civet's ingestion, digestion, and excretion manages to do naturally what we do artificially: select the right cherries and remove the fruit pulp (either mechanically or chemically) until only the seed remains.
Why it is superior coffee
Many believe that the fermentation that the cherries undergo in the stomach of the civet gives the coffee an overall smoothness and decreases its acidity—qualities that many people note as a positive to the coffee. It is also thought that the civet's selection of the coffee cherries influences the coffee taste and aroma. These civets are picky, and we love them for it!
The taste and aroma of Kopi Luwak vary with the type and origin of excreted beans, processing, roasting, aging, and brewing. The ability of the civet to select its berries and other aspects such as its diet, health, and stress levels also influence the taste of Kopi Luwak. Due to this, the best kind of Kopi Luwak is produced from berries found in the wild, near coffee farms where civets are known to roam.
The dark side of Kopi Luwak production
Due to its high demand and price, many "imitation farms" use caged civets that are force-fed coffee cherries to produce the raw material required for Kopi Luwak.
According to Chris Shepherd from TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, "The civets are taken from the wild and have to endure horrific conditions. They fight to stay together, but they are separated and have to bear an inferior diet in very small cages. There is a high mortality rate, and there's a real conservation risk for some civet species. It is spiraling out of control. But there's not much public awareness of how it is actually made.
People need to be aware that tens of thousands of civets are being kept in these conditions. It would put people off their coffee if they knew.
In fact, the situation has steadily gotten worse, with multiple outlets such as PETA and BBC conducting investigations into these farms and finding unsanitary conditions and caged animals in extreme distress. Tony Wild, the coffee executive responsible for introducing Kopi Luwak to the West, is lobbying against the product and now no longer supports the export of Kopi Luwak.
So now that we see the other side of the production of Kopi Luwak, it brings into light the necessity of cruelty-free processes. How much do you actually know about the animals that suffer for your cup of coffee? It makes you want to go vegan, huh?
But worry not, if you still want to give the exotic coffee, Kopi Luwak, a try, you can consider buying it from roasters who do not engage in caging civets, but rather extract it naturally from the forest floors.
And this is exactly what we strive for at Era Of We: Complete transparency and production, which puts you in touch with the people at every step of the process.