Learn why civet cat coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world and how it is made, so you will know not to get scammed.
Civet cat coffee originated in the Dutch coffee plantations in Indonesia, and is known in their native language as "kopi luwak":
- kopi is the word they use in Indonesia and Malaysia to say coffee.
- luwak is the word they use in Indonesia and Malaysia to name the civet cat or civet palm cat: not really a cat, but it looks a bit like one, however with a much longer tail.
The greedy Dutch didn’t allow the local farmers to harvest any of the fresh coffee fruits. However they couldn’t stop the civet cats from eating the most ripe coffee fruits. The civet cat however only digests the fruit, the bean does ferment a bit in their intestines but gets excreted. Harvesting these beans, cleaning them and roasting them led to a distinct tasting coffee called kopi luwak.
So the free ranging civet cat consumes ripe coffee fruit as well as insects, small mammals and other fruits. The fruit is easily digested, the bean isn’t: enzymes in the stomach of the animal will add some fermented type of taste to the beans, some of them still covered in the inner layers of the original coffee fruit.
Locals then gather these coffee beans by hand, so you can imagine not much beans are harvested. The "real" kopi luwak is therefore a rare commodity, which explains the high price. This led to the rise of civet cat farms: civet cats are locked up in cages, fed any kind of coffee fruit and what’s excreted also gets sold as the real thing. Needless to say that caged animals that can’t pick the best fruits will have a different digestion, hence the quality of the excreted beans isn’t comparable with the real deal.
Another way of imitating the taste of "luwak coffee" is soaking the beans in enzymes, which is done in Vietnam. Vietnam also host the largest wild civet cat farms (in Dak Lak), with over 300 animals running wild to harvest beans from.
You can’t discuss taste, so if you don’t want to spend your bucks but do want to know where the beans originate from, go and order a cup of kopi luwak in the 1926 Heritage Hotel in Penang, Malaysia (227, Jalan Burma, Georgetown, Pulau Pinang) and have a chat with one of the friendly owners about the origin of their coffee and their food: they are proud descendants of the Famous Hainan chefs of Malaysia, and have traveled the world in order to come as close as possible to the original Hainan food, cooked during the colonial era.
Organic green coffee beans
As with all recipes: the better the quality of the ingredients, the better the quality of the end product.
When you want to taste something different than the usual coffees from the supermarket, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on civet cat coffee: try roasting your own coffee at home, starting from organic green coffee beans. The aroma that fills your house when roasting coffee beans is priceless to start with, and you will end up with flavors you wont find in any shop!
There are several ways to roast your own green coffee beans:
- heating them over fire coals,
- roasting in cast iron pans,
- roasting in rotating iron drums over a fire or coal bed
- roasting in a pan over a normal kitchen fire.
Only roast coffee in small quantities, so you will have only the most fresh roasted available, which will translate in the strongest coffee aroma possible. The best homemade roasts use beans, butter and sugar.