“This coffee tastes like shit!” Almost correct my friend, it came straight out of a weasel’s butt, but jokes on you. When the coffee comes out of someone’s butt is better, smoother, and even more expensive. This is not the first time for us enjoying this so-called “second brew”. Before that, we have enjoyed probably the best and for sure the most expansive coffee in the world – Black Ivory Coffee. My saying is, try the best to criticize the rest. Ok, no more chit chats, let’s check this notorious Kopi Luwak, which translates as civet coffee.
What is Kopi Luwak?
Simply put, Kopi Luwak is one of the most sought-after luxury beverages in the world, often crowned as the best coffee in the world. The procedure to get the notorious coffee is less appealing and more often than not, a reason of concern. For now, let’s focus on the beverage, which starts with a civet cat eating the coffee cherries and ends with coffee seeds in dung. To be clear, these seeds are the coffee beans we make coffee with, once they are thoroughly washed and roasted.
Why in the world would this be a good praxis? While the coffee beans travel through the digestive system, enzymes dissolve the bean’s pectin layer. Due to the sugars present in the pectin layer, the coffee beans get a unique modification via partial fermentation. On top of that, these cute civets are picking only the healthy, well ripe berries. “Berry selection” if I may.
Legend of Kopi Luwak
On the first coffee plantations, workers weren’t allowed to taste the final product. Naturally, they knew the whole procedure and were eager for a tasting opportunity. Since human rights are a thing only for a brief moment in history, workers waited patiently until the opportunity occurred. Up until finally, someone noticed the holly grail; coffee beans poking out of the animal droppings. The beans were whole and undigested, so it was safe to pick them up and secretly make the coffee. It is logical to assume that the privileged few would be appalled by the idea of ingesting something that was in the animal droppings, right? For some, that is still true.
History repeats itself. Looks like every time the lower class finds something pleasant, the upper class ceases it and declares it as a luxury ingredient. It happened with lobsters as well…
Where Can I Find Kopi Luwak?
Kopi Luwak has its origin in Indonesia but they produce it also in Vietnam, which is not surprising. Vietnam is the second biggest coffee exporter in the world! However, we stopped in Dalat, Vietnam – where the coffee cultivation is expanding on a daily basis. Sadly, this cultivation is far cry from sustainable and that is not the only shocker when you get here…
Civet Coffee Controversy
If a farmer would get noted a sin for every time when exploiting pristine nature, the Vietnamese farmers would be famous down in hell. Deforestation is like a national thing here, so prepare for some bad scenes. Probably I don’t need to expose bad farming praxis and scams right? However, if you are in the mood for a shocker check our Battery Coffee post.
On top of that, it comes as no surprise that animal abuse is a real thing as well and that people do unimaginable things for money. With this in mind, we headed to the Me Linh Coffee Garden in Da Lat, where we were able to see the animals and taste their coffee. Civets have small cages and don’t look happy at all.
By all means, when something is open to the public you know that this is an example. To put it another way, what they don’t want you to see is concerning. When will we realize that we vote with our money and therefore support honest, open businesses?
Taste of Kopi Luwak
It goes without saying that the taste of Kopi Luwak varies to the coffee origins, variety, and method of preparation. Regardless of that, the weasel coffee is known for its rich caramel notes and smooth mouthfeel. Besides that, we loved the fruity acidity with blueberry hints in our cup at Me Linh Coffee Garden. At the same time, we have to admit that when we compared their regular coffee with the weasel coffee, the difference wasn’t as straightforward as we expected.
Fake Kopi Luwak
The biggest question is, did we even try the real deal? Trung Nguyen, one of the biggest coffee manufacturers in Vietnam, has been making concerted efforts to bring fake weasel coffee to the world. Its fermentation techniques simulate the civet’s gut bacteria and produce a near-indistinguishable drink.
Price of Kopi Luwak
This cage coffee can’t be considered as the real Kopi Luwak, but the real deal – organic, free-roaming civet farms produce coffee that can cost as much as $3,700 per kilo.
As was the case with the Me Linh Coffee Garden, we were saddened by the cages and trapped animals in them. We were foolishly expecting the free-roaming civet cats that have shelters all over the plantation. On the contrary, weasels don’t get to pick the coffee cherries from the plant. A sad reality in most cases is that civet cats are fed the coffee cherries about three times a week during the coffee season. At the Me Linh Coffee Garden animals at least have a little bit of the climbing area with a shelter. In fact, we have been told some bad stories about huge farms with much worse conditions.
All this “baggage” makes this coffee less appealing and we still stand for good cause coffee – Black Ivory Coffee. A great story with philanthropic touch and much much better coffee. However, we won’t give up on Kopi Luwak. We will find a farm where animals are free to roam and the coffee will blast! If they won’t deforest everything before we do.