We've been deluged by new merchants in Indonesia trying to sell Kopi Luwak through ROASTe.
So far we haven't taken one of them.
And we've heard the scoop on the exposition in availability of Kopi Luwak.
It isn't pretty.
It all has to do with the civet.
As you might know, Kopi Luwak is made from green coffee beans recovered from the scat of a kind of feline living in Indonesia called a Civet. There, I said it -- scat. May I never need to say that word again except as a synonym for scram.
Why is this an expensive delicacy and not something that should be featured in Man vs. Food on Travel TV alongside super-hot sauce and fried fish heads?
Because there's a reason for the madness. Coffee cherries grow on a tree much like grapes. All the grapes in a bunch tend to ripen all at once, so they can be harvested by the bunch. Not so coffee cherries. Individual cherries mature at their own rates. So you either need to harvest the individually ripe red coffee cherries by hand, or find some automated method to do it. One solution is gnomes. But they only live in Scandinavia. And they fear humans. Another is Civets. Unlike gnomes, they're real, and they like tropical climates where coffee grows. Like humans, they only eat ripe fruit. So they only eat the ripe coffee cherries. (Ripe coffee cherries are sweet, edible fruit like 'real' cherries). So the civets pick only the ripe cherries. Voila, the best ripest coffee cherries.
On many farms in Indonesia, the civet used to be a pest, chased away, like deer eating your garden's vegetables. Now it's a profit center. Many Indonesian coffee farmers tell their workers to pick up scat from Civets when they find it. It increases the price of the green Sumatran coffee from $5.00 a pound to about $20.00. Bring on the civets!
After a thorough sterilization and roasting, you have the famously mellow Kopi Luwak coffee.
All this profit motive has resulted in shady practices.
What can be shady about civet-eaten coffee cherries?
Lately we hear that Indonesian Kopi Luwak companies CAGE the civets and feed them any coffee beans they can find - ripe, unripe, rotten, anything. Not just the ripe cherries. This of course defeats the deft-fingered gnome-like precision of the civets in picking only the ripes beans. This is a reason for the explosion in availability of Kopi Luwak.
We currently carry Kopi Luwak from Heirloom Coffee. Why?
1. The coffee is certified as Kopi Luwak
2. Heirloom Coffee has been to the farms that they buy from in Indonesia and verified
3. Heirloom Coffee sells only WHOLE BEAN Kopi Luwak. The beans look unique. Don't trust ground Kopi Luwak because you won't be able to to see the distinctive look of the beans.
4. Heirloom has long-standing relationships with the farms that it imports from in Indonesia
For all these reasons, be skeptical of cheap imitators, even if it is coffee from a feline.
Drink onward, caffeinated fans of ROASTe.