Kopi luwak – the world’s most expensive coffee in Bali

Balinese farmers have for many years believed that the luwak eat, digest and release the best coffee beans.

Kopi luwak is made from coffee beans eaten by luwak, Asian palm civet, digested and discharged. Coffee beans in droppings will be washed and processed. Westerners often call this "cat faeces coffee". For about 35 - 100 USD per cup, kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee on the planet.

According to word of mouth, kopi luwak was discovered during the Indonesian period as a Dutch colony. At that time, Indonesian farmers were prohibited from harvesting coffee according to personal needs. They had to scramble for coffee and found the civet's droppings contained naturally-cleaned beans, no mold or rotten worms.

Coffee beans in civets' droppings

Farmers in Indonesia claim this is the best coffee in the world. This is because the civet is quite picky as they only choose the ripe coffee cherries. Next, the animal's digestive enzyme "changes the protein structure of coffee beans, removes some acid to make the taste coffee becomes smoother," according to National Geographic. The civet's digestive system also removes the entire skin of coffee cherries that are sometimes left on the grain during processing.

For decades, kopi luwak is Indonesia's local speciality, almost exclusively collected from wild civets. Civets feed themselves freely in coffee gardens and farmers have to hunt down their droppings.

But since Tony Wild - the director of Taylors of Harrogate introduced kopi luwak to the West in the early 1990s, it all changed. Currently, the demand for this type of coffee is huge. Many luxury retailers around the world import and expand production to China, Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam - popularly known as weasel coffee. In Indonesia, this is one of the most attractive specialities offered to tourists.

Gradually, kopi luwak is no longer a coffee from a wild civet. Most of the civets are caught and locked in cages on giant coffee plantations. "Similar to foie gras, civets are forced to eat coffee cherries," Suwanna Gauntlett, founder of Wildlife Alliance, told Globalpost.

Wild civet being held in a cage

Feeding civet in Tampaksiring, Bali, Indonesia

In 2013, it was Tony Wild who called for an end to the exploitation of civet to make kopi luwak. The single life nature makes the civets stress when having to live close to each other, and many of them suffer from health problems due to a coffee-only diet.

Before going to Bali (Indonesia), Harrison Jacobs, a Business Insider reporter, heard from friends that he had to try the kopi luwak. The American man went to Satu Satu Café in Canggu, a coastal town. The coffee here is grown from a 2.4-hectare farm of the owner, who claims to only get coffee beans from the wild civets.

Harrison decided to give it a try because he had chosen a reputable address. As a coffee lover and have tried a variety of drinks from Espresso, Aeropress, French coffee, Harrison said he had no special feeling with kopi luwak.

Harrison's kopi luwak coffee at Satu Satu Café

"It's smoother than normal coffee, but it's no better than other types I used to drink at that price. I find the taste to be too earthy. Now, I can tell my friends that I have tried one of the most expensive coffees in the world, rather than talking about a delicious product, "he said.

By: Torri Collins

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