Food & Drink

Kopi Luwak from Bali

Coffee is a tropical plant, which is originated in Ethiopia and introduced to India, Indonesia Arabia, Turkey, Europe, North America and Brazil.

Its appealing aroma and distinctive flavor makes it the world’s favorite beverage. It stimulates the senses, comforts the spirit and encourages conversations. Its taste and flavor shows differences, depending on its species, the region where it grows, its roasting conditions and preparation.

Coffee plant produces red cherry-like fruits containing two seeds. These seeds are separated from the fruit pulp are packed and transported to consuming countries. When they are received, they are blended with different beans from other origins and roasted to produce the characteristic flavor and the taste of coffee.

Today, I would like to mention about a unique coffee called “Kopi Luwak”, a.k.a. “poop coffee”, which is produced in Bali. In Indonesian language Kopi means coffee, while luwak is the local name of the civet cat who makes “kopi luwak” quite unique.

Let me briefly explain how kopi luwak is prepared: First of all, these civet cats are let to eat the coffee fruits; however the coffee beans are not fully digested by the civet. Local farm people collect the droppings and separate the coffee beans from the feces. They wash the beans and wait for a while for the beans to ferment longer. And then the beans are dried, removed the outer skin, sorted and finally roasted. Yes, it might sound disgusting to you but it is the most expensive coffee in the world either because of its very laborious preparation or its taste.

People may pay for a single cup of kopi luwak $35 to $80 and it is $100 to $600 for one pound of the dry beans. I heard about kopi luwak for the first time when I saw the movie “The Bucket List”. It seemed disgusting to me to drink ‘poop’ coffee but also wondered about its taste ☺. At that time, I did not know that one day I would visit Bali and taste this unique coffee. Life is full of surprises, isn’t it? Well, we went to a farm café on the mountains in order to taste the Balinese and luwak coffee. It was in a green garden, full of fruit trees, spices, herbs, where the workers serve their products from their plantation. We also saw a civet cat in its cage. It was similar to a cat, a little bit bigger in size, dark grey and seemed sleepy. So, we did not get very close and followed our guide.

The lady in the café was so kind and showed us a table that faced the rice terraces to sit. The view was outstanding. I could stay there my whole life and drink coffee while looking at that amazing scene.

She served different teas and coffees to us in small mugs and explained their health benefits and how they should be prepared. Balinese coffee was nice but not very different than what we usually drink, so it is probably a robusta. By the way, I should mention that I am not a coffee addict/expert.

As we had already had our breakfast, we were ready to try this famous poop coffee ☺. Actually, although it might seem disgusting to you, drinking kopi luwak coffee is as safe and hygienic as drinking any other coffee. Even the coffee beans is processed in an unusual way, the beans are thoroughly washed, roasted at around 100 and 200oC and then brewed. I saw in a documentary, in Thailand, in a very similar fashion to kopi luwak process, that coffee beans are consumed by elephants and collected from their feces. It is known as Elephant Dung Coffee or Black Ivory Coffee. Likewise, in Brazil, a bird poop coffee has been produced by the jacu bird. When you think about it, the collection / production method is indeed similar to honey, isn’t it?

Anyway, kopi luwak was prepared in a special coffee making equipment and one cup of it was only $5. So, it was not more expensive than a cup of usual Americano that we frequently have in a standard coffee house in Singapore. The equipment was interesting too; it was in gold colour, seemed to be used for long years in serving the coffee to the rich people.

And my kopi luwak was ready. First sip, I didn’t understand anything. Second, not much, and then third sip, nothing special. Well, I was expecting a strong aroma and taste; however, surprisingly it did not have a strong/bitter/acidic aroma. It was disappointing. Its taste was quite smooth and earthy to me. It might be because of the digestive enzymes of the cat’s stomach and the subsequent fermentation process by the lactic acid bacteria coming from the digestion system of the cat, which would changes the chemical compositions of the aromatic chemicals, proteins and other compounds. First, I did not understand why the people would pay a lot of money for this product. It is not as good as to make me buy frequently. The taste is indeed subjective, and I believe that if people pay for it, they must know something I do not know or love some other aspect of it rather than taste.

Then, I thought on how kopi luwak was discovered and I asked her. She mentioned me that when the Dutch colonised Bali, they owned the coffee plantations and locals worked in these plantations day and night. The bosses never let the locals to collect the beans or to drink. The workers realised that the civet cat can eat coffee fruits but never digest the beans. So, the workers found a way to “smuggle” coffee out of the plantation. They collected the droppings and processed it to drink. I do not know whether this is the real story or not. If it is, we can say that the history of kopi luwak started with a ban. Over time, the people who exploit others might change, but the story is always the same. In the past, colonisers abused locals when they are in a power position. Similarly, the main problem in kopi luwak production today is the animal abuse. This aspect of the coffee production is covered in this article: The Disturbing Secret Behind the World’s Most Expensive Coffee. Due to the high price of kopi luwak coffee, mass farming and force-feeding of cats rose tremendously. While some farms treat their animals well, some others mistreat or cage them like chicken. Therefore, if you like to drink kopi luwak, please buy it from certified sellers (WSPA, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ Certified). Likewise, you can do the same for everything else, for a better world.

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