Kopi Luwak

Recently I had the opportunity to taste the famous Kopi Luwak (please search for yourself on this coffee variety) from Indonesia.

When I saw the price of one single serving of Kopi Luwak, I was stunned. While the serving amounted to more than two cups of coffee, coming from a uniquely designed equipment (which looks more advanced than the usual coffee maker) brought to your table, the price still cannot be explained easily. In this case, it was USD 15 (SGD 19) per coffee serving.

I did not know what was Kopi Luwak before trying it – my friend did not tell me. He only mentioned that it was one of the most famous coffees in the world, and even Hollywood was impressed with this coffee from Indonesia.

I said OK, let me try. I chose the Kopi Luwak Medan (from the Medan area of Indonesia). It took nearly 15 minutes for the coffee equipment to arrive. At first look, the coffee powder in the lower beaker appeared to be very similar to any other coffee, but I noticed that the quantity of the powder was just about right – no lavishness on the quantity, may be because of the exorbitant price. The upper beaker had the water which was getting heated, and infusing into the lower beaker slowly. We left it for some 10 minutes or so, and then all the water had come down to the lower beaker and it was looking like coffee drink now.

I was then served the coffee, and I detected a strong aroma emanating from the cup. It looked like a light coloured drink, not really a thick strong coffee. The smell was unlike the Nescafe that we are used to.

I sipped slowly, and sensed that this coffee was indeed different from the other varieties of usual coffee. There was a pleasant aroma that was unmistakable in its distinction. I drank the first cup in its pure form, added a bit of sugar later, and enjoyed it.

My friend looked at me in anticipation, and I smiled. It was indeed a good coffee, I told him.

Then he explained to me that Kopi Luwak is “civet coffee”, and comes from the coffee beans that have been through the digestive tracts of the civet which likes to eat the fleshy coffee berries in coffee plantations. Oh, wow, I realized I have drunk the poop coffee from the civet – and this is in fact, one of the priciest coffees in the world !

However, I went on, and added some hot milk to the second cup of Kopi Luwak. It was even better than the first cup of black coffee. Good stuff, but not at USD 15 per cup of coffee.

Later I read about Kopi Luwak, and it was interesting to see how the world has been taken for a ride by greedy farmers who have caged the poor civets to extract the maximum quantity of the fleshed out coffee beans. Why should this coffee be priced so much higher if the civets are tortured to produce quantity rather than quality ? The more I read about civets, and the bad practices of the farmers, the more I felt bad about drinking the Kopi Luwak.

In any case, one try is good as long as it can be certified that the kopi comes from coffee beans left out in the wild by free civets from the forest. But who will certify ? Everyone is happy to sell the brand name.

Try it once – the most famous cup of coffee that you can dream of.


Vijay Srinivasan
30th November 2014

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