What is kopi luwak?

Kopi luwak or civet coffee is well-known as a specialty of Indonesia which was also the hometown of it. The name “kopi luwak” came from Indonesian with the following meanings that kopi represents coffee and luwak means civet.

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How had kopi luwak been found?

"I don't want to eat these coffee cherries" says luwak?

“I don’t want to eat these coffee cherries” says luwak?

Particularly, it was an unintentional and amazing discovery of people attached to the history of coffee production in which people could not afford to enjoy coffee in those days. At that time, Indonesia was a Dutch colony and Indonesian workers were under the control of the plantation owners. Therefore, the workers were not allowed to collect coffee beans and use them for their private purposes. Instead of accepting the rule and giving up the favorite beverage, the workers found outstanding opportunities in the most disadvantageous condition that they tried picking up the beans left behind in the droppings of civets because of not being digested and then washing them consciously, drying, roasting and grounding the beans to make “a coffee almost devoid of bitterness with a profound favor clearly distinguished by the taste of dark chocolate” says Sébastien Langevin, Juge sensoriel au championat Canadien Barista, 2011. This unique and distinct taste is yielded thanks to the fermentation of beans in the wild Asian civet cats. More specificly, the proteins which are the main factors deciding the taste of coffee are transformed from the absorbing process of the beans caused by the enzymes available in the civet’s digestive tract.

kopi luwak sold at amazon

A kopi luwak coffee product is sold at Amazon.com.

Following that, this new form of coffee spread rapidly and was beloved by the owners. However, by these unusual features, the number of beans collected was definitely scarce and the price clam up rapidly. In addition, as the scarcity of beans resources, this beverage was almost only being enjoyed in Indonesia and became the most luxurious coffee in the 18th century.

How much does it cost? And what is the reality versus the legend?

Currently, at the price of point of $150 to $227 per pound and the amount of less than 700 kg produced annually, kopi luwak continues to become the world’s most costly and rare coffee. Nevertheless, this rare and uncommon coffee has just been familiarized by the Western society. Nowadays, due to the increased demand of customers in the West and other areas, the “civet coffee” is being produced in the other Asia South Eastern countries like the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos by various versions. For such a high price, many manufacturers try to benefit from fake products sold as kopi luwak or bad-quality products made from the blend of real kopi luwak and low-qualified beans. Actually, it is absolutely adverse to realize real kopi luwak beans from fakes ones. Furthermore, “a black market of knock off” in which chemicals are utilized to push the effects of digestion in maximization.

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Otherwise, according to an investigation of BBC’s reporters conducted in 2013 indicated that to yield one of the world’s expensive coffee like this, many civet cats are suffered from the cages which are absolutely empty and dirty. That means these animals are forced to eat beans and live in a limited space of “two by one and a half meters and the cement floor” instead of in natural conditions as manufacturers advertise. Additionally, the signals of animal cruelty are also found during the production when these wild animal behavior and diet are compelled to change for commercial purposes of human being such as they could not climb in the cages because there is no place for them to do that.

A wild civet on its coffee land.

A wild civet on its coffee land.

For reasons above, kopi luwak production and consumption should be tightly controlled by a close coordination of local governments and responsible organizations so that wild civet cats are not in risk of extinction.

What are the futures for this kind of specialty coffee?

In Laos, there have still been many tropical forests and thus, the amount of wild civets is still high. Thanks to those wild civets, the production of real and genuine kopi luwak keeps moving. However, the amount should not be large in quantity because we cannot control the material input from wild civets.

kopi luwak in Laos

Wildest kopi luwak coffee is believed still in Laos.

In Indonesia, the country’s population keeps booming and tropical forests are decreasing. Those will effect future volume of kopi luwak.

In Vietnam, there are not many wild civets left in natural environment as the country’s tropical forest has been disappeared during recent decades. An other reason is that local restaurant across Vietnam have consumed a lot of wild civets as a specialty dish. Thus, it is very difficult to find out a real kopi luwak in Vietnam nowsaday. Kopi luwak or in Vietnamese named ‘ca phe chon’ has different names including civet coffee, civet dung coffee or weasel coffee will not have a bright future in Vietnam. Most of so-called civet coffees in Vietnam are made from “home civets” inside a cage and from coffee beans mixed with artificial flavors. Some even are made from soya beans with artificial flavors.

Kopi luwak can be a long-lasting legend and never becomes true.

A civet might be nice but its viruses can harm you.

A civet might be nice but its viruses can harm you.

Kopi luwak is a legend you will miss, in deed. You love it and regret for it. This could be definitely true. Why? The reasons are very simple.

1. Kopi luwak is just a legend. No one has a fix and specific standard for it. As this coffee specialty is very scarce, not many people have got a chance to taste it. If they got a chance to taste it, they would not have tasted it as much as to remember it.

2. Its quality is not consistent. Kopi luwak from Indonesia will be described differently from the one from Vietnam. No 3rd party organization has an authority to certify it. If yes, it does not have a specific and universally-recognized method to test and verify it. It is like a story-telling. The buyers do not know whether they buy the genuine kopi luwak or not.

3. The third reason is kopi luwak itself. Mordern coffee lovers are scared of wild animals and products made from wild animals. As you may know, wild animals may have some unknown and dangerous viruses which no vaccine has been found just in case you get a disease. Like you, I do not want to be the first case study. So, the best way is to let wild civets be free in their own coffee lands. And a coffee made by civet will always be a legend.

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To conclude, kopi luwak is a specialty coffee. It is a unique coffee from South East Asia region. Kopi luwak’s production is not many per year. It is believed that there are not many naturally genuine kopi luwak today. Some are believed to be made from home civets instead of wild civets and some are from coffee beans flavored with artificial chemical substances. Also, there have been many arguments on using kopi luwak recently.