Kopi Luwak: the most expensive and controversial coffee in the world
Hands up if you have never heard of kopi luwak, the coffee made from Asian palm civet excrement. As a result of its unique and unmistakable flavour, or because of the accusations made against it over the last few years, this blend is as valuable, rare and expensive (it costs as much as gold) as it is controversial.
What is Kopi luwak coffee and how is it prepared?
Imagine we are in Indonesia. A little animal lives in the forests of Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java and Bali that looks like a cross between a mongoose and a small wild cat. The natives call him luwak. This cute omnivore enjoys coffee, even if he only partially digests it: he eats the cherries and then expels them still intact. By passing through the animal’s digestive tract, thanks to the corrosive action of the enzymes on the surface of the cherry, the fruit’s acidity is reduced and it is given a characteristic flavour. The coffee made from the half-digested cherries is sweet and full of chocolatey and caramel notes, with bitter and sour touches that are perfectly balanced.
During the Dutch domination, the local farmers – who were not allowed to consume the coffee from the plantations – roasted the beans collected in the forest from the wild palm civet’s faeces. Instead, today, the exponential growth of the demand for kopi luwak has tied a profitable business to these likeable mammals.
The animals are captured by poachers and are locked up in small cages. Forced to eat only cherries, they are condemned to a state of perpetual excitement caused by the huge amount of caffeine absorbed. Driven to madness by their imprisonment, diets and sanitary conditions, the palm civets quickly show signs of derangement: they run frenetically, rubbing themselves against the walls of their tiny cages. The lucky ones are freed after three years, but those who survive this experience are few and far between. Indeed, the mortality rate at these farms is extremely high and, for some species, there is fear of extinction.
How much does Kopi Luwak cost?
As well as being a real delicacy from an organoleptic point of view, kopi luwak is one of the rarest and most expensive coffees in the world. Why Kopi Luwak coffee is so expensive? Every year, approximately 50 tonnes of it are produced. These are destined for the United States and Japanese markets in particular, and its price may vary from 500 to 900 euros per kilogram. So, how much does a cup of Kopi Luwak cost? A cup at a coffee bar will not cost less than 10-12 euros.
However, international organisations committed to animal rights have been fighting for years to obtain a trade ban. In England, they managed to get it removed from the shelves of the famous Harrods department store. Some call extensively for the sustainable production of kopi luwak – a return to the roots that would further increase costs – while others try to recreate the fermentation that occurs in palm civets’ stomachs in the laboratory, attempting to produce more coffee at more affordable prices without mistreating animals. Researcher experiments are continuing and, perhaps, in the not too distant future, they will be weighed up.
Where to find kopi luwak coffee for sale
If you would like to try a cup of kopi luwak, you don’t have to go to Indonesia: it can easily be found online on specialised e-commerce sites. However, if your conscience gets the better of you, or if the idea of a “digested” coffee simply stops your mouth watering, you can always console yourself with our extra-tasty and timeless italian coffee!
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