Kopi Luwak

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Defecated luwak coffee berries, East Java

Kopi Luwak (pronounced [ˈkopi ˈluwak]) or Civet coffee is coffee made from coffee berries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). The civets eat the berries, but the beans inside pass through their system undigested. This process takes place on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, in the Philippines (where the product is called Kape Alamid) and in East Timor (locally called kafé-laku). Vietnam has a similar type of coffee, called weasel coffee, which is made from coffee berries which have been regurgitated by local weasels. In actuality the "weasel" is just the local version of the Asian Palm Civet.


[edit] Origin and production

Kopi is the Indonesian word for coffee, and luwak is a local name of the Asian Palm Civet. The raw, red coffee berries are part of its normal diet, along with insects, small mammals, small reptiles, eggs and nestlings of birds, and other fruit. The inner bean of the berry is not digested, but it has been proposed that enzymes in the stomach of the civet add to the coffee's flavor by breaking down the proteins that give coffee its bitter taste. The beans are defecated, still covered in some inner layers of the berry. The beans are washed, and given only a light roast so as to not destroy the complex flavors that develop through the process. Some sources claim that the beans may be regurgitated instead of defecated.

In early days, the beans would be collected in the wild from a "latrine," or a specific place where the civet would defecate as a means to mark its territory, and these latrines would be a predictable place for local gatherers to find the beans. More commonly today, captured civets are fed raw berries, the feces produced are then processed and the coffee beans offered for sale.[citation needed]

[edit] Economics

Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for between $120 and $600 USD per pound, and is sold mainly in Japan and the United States. It is increasingly becoming available elsewhere, though supplies are limited; only 1,000 pounds (450 kg) at most make it into the world market each year.[1] One small cafe, the Heritage Tea Rooms, in the hills outside Townsville in Queensland, Australia, has Kopi Luwak coffee on the menu at A$50.00 (=US$33.00) per cup, selling approximately four cups a week, which has gained nationwide Australian press.[2] In April 2008, the brasserie of Peter Jones department store in London's Sloane Square started selling a blend of Kopi Luwak peanut and Blue Mountain called Caffe Raro for £50 (=US$99.00) a cup.[3] It has also recently become available at Selfridges, London, as part of their "Edible" range of exotic foods. It is also available in Toronto, Canada, at Coffeeholic: Handdrip Roastery in the upper Forest Hill village on Eglinton Avenue West.

[edit] Research

A popular and intuitive hypothesis to justify this coffee's reputation proposes that the beans are of superior quality before they are even ingested.[citation needed] At any given point during a harvest, some coffee berries are not quite ripe or overripe, while others are just right. The palm civet evolved as an omnivore that naturally eats fruit and passes undigested material as a natural link to disperse seeds in a forest ecosystem. Where coffee plants have been introduced into their habitat, civets only forage on the most ripe berries, digest the fleshy outer layer, and later excrete the seeds eventually used for human consumption. Thus, when the fruit is at its peak, the seeds (or beans) within are equally so, with the expectation that this will come through in the taste of a freshly brewed cup. As this may be true for the beans derived from wild-collected civet feces, farm-raised civets are likely fed beans of varying quality and ripeness, so one would expect the taste of farm-raised beans to be less.

Further research by Dr. Massimo Marcone at the University of Guelph (CA) has shown that the digestive juices of the civet actually penetrate the beans and change the proteins, resulting in their unique flavor. [4]

[edit] Similar coffees

Kopi Muncak (also Kopi Muntjak) is a similar type of coffee produced from the feces of several species of barking deer, or Muntjac, that are found throughout Southeast Asia. Unlike civet or "weasel" coffee, this type is usually not produced from captive deer and most commonly collected in the wild, especially in Malaysia and in the Indonesian Archipelago.

[edit] In popular culture

The CSI episode "Last Laugh" features Kopi Luwak. Its presence in poisoned water allows the investigators to determine who the killer is.

Kopi Luwak is featured in the 2007 film, The Bucket List. Morgan Freeman's character responds when asked about Kopi Luwak, "Never catch me drinking that shit."

In the Gossip Girl episode titled "It's a Wonserful Lie" (S212), Ian's girlfriend mentions to Dan whether he had any Kopi Luwak back there in the coffee shop.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Sweet, Leonard (2007). The Gospel According to Starbucks. Waterbrook Press. pp. 23. ISBN 9781578566495. 
  2. ^ http://www.heritagetearooms.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=31
  3. ^ The Guardian - The £50 espresso
  4. ^ Marcone, M (2007). In Bad Taste: The Adventures And Science Behind Food Delicacies

[edit] External links

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