I’ve often been asked, why is Kopi Luwak so expensive? Aside from the fact that I just know that Kopi Luwak is known as the Worlds most expensive coffee, and its produced in very low quantities, I really didn’t know the answer. So prompted by my lack of knowledge on the subject I thought I’d do a little bit of research.
What is kopi luwak?
Kopi luwak is a type of coffee with a unique flavour. Also known as civet coffee, is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet and other related civets, then passed through its digestive tract. In simple terms the Civet eats the coffee berries and then its excreted, having witnessed Asian Palm Civets in my own garden I can confirm that they perform this process a lot!
How is Kopi Luwak made?
The process starts with a Civet Cat eating the coffee berries. What the Civet Cat is particularly interested in is the fleshy pulp on the berries and nothing else. Once inside the Civet Cats stomach, digestive enzymes seep into the digested beans. As mentioned previously the beans are excreted or defacated if this explains the process a little more clearly, the good news is that the beans still keep their shape! The excrement is then collected and after a thorough washing, drying in the sun, some light roasting and brewing, you end up with an aromatic coffee, without the bitterness associated with other coffees.
It seems to have been scientifically proven that the Kopi Luwak coffee is different from other coffees due to the enzymes in the Civets Cats digestive juices breaking down the beans proteins, yeilding shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Since coffee flavouring owes much to its proteins this process gives the Kopi Luwak its unique flavour. The later roasting of the beans is also a contibutor to the flavour and while inside the Civet Cats stomach the beans start to germinate by malting which does help to lower the bitterness.
So there you have it, science and nature equate to the most expensive coffee in the world, but I still don’t really know the answer to why it should be. The obvious points that lead to me to the reason is that its hard to produce, its difficult to find the beans (you’re more likely to find them on your shoe). But in my own mind I can’t imagine people hunting through the jungles for Civet Cat excrement when they could just round up 500 Civet Cats and farm them like battery hens, keep feeding them and keep collecting it. Maybe the real reason is down to marketing? Its known as the most expensive coffee in the world and continuously marketed as such, thus it justifies the price and there is no reason to question it anymore!
That’s as close as I can get for the time being, maybe with further research I’ll find the definitive answer.