This is one of those times when I wonder, who was the first person to think that this was a good idea?
While visiting Maria’s family in Jakarta, Indonesia, this past June, her aunt and uncle (Lisa and Han) were kind enough to make the one hour drive through unbearable traffic to a west Jakarta shopping mall so I could taste the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world: Kopi Luwak.
Kopi means coffee in Indonesia and Luwak is the local name for the Asian Palm Civet, a member of the Viverridae family, although they are often casually referred to as tree cats or weasels.
The coffee is produced when the civet eats whole coffee berries, which contain the fruit and seed. The proteins in the animal’s digestive juices break down the fruit’s outer layer and the more acidic portion of the beans inside, which gives coffee its bitterness. The bean passes through the animal’s system and is defected whole, still covered in some of its outer layers. Some lucky fellow collects the beans, and washes and dries them. The combination of the digestive juices of the animal and its ability to pick the ripest berries are said to be the source of its unique flavor. The beans are then given a light roast, which helps the coffee maintain its flavor.
This brew is the Holy Grail of serious coffee drinkers and those into exotic foods and beverages. It has appeared in several television shows (including Oprah) and is the source of many well-written stories. It even played a key supporting role in the movie, “The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Here is Freeman’s character, Carter Chambers, explaining to Edward Cole (Nicholson), a Kopi Luwak connoisseur, the coffee’s unusual source:
Here is another video with a more scientific, although a bit dramatized, explanation:
In the mall restaurant named after the coffee, I enjoyed a cup of the brew, which cost about $20. I can attest to the coffee’s lack of bitterness. It was the smoothest coffee I ever tasted. However, I did not experience the complexity of flavor that is exulted in its many descriptions. The restaurant also sells a less expensive blended version of the coffee, which was bitter and otherwise tasteless. While I was happy to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I chose not to buy any to bring to back with me. I still prefer Philadelphia’s La Colombe.