A cute Southeast Asian marsupial likes coffee beans, and because of this, a rare variety of coffee was developed. This cat-like animal, a Luwak, pre-processes the beans, quite naturally, and then deposits them on the ground for coffee farmers to harvest. The coffee brewed from these beans has a unique and special taste that is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. This growing demand prompted a major change in the production process of the Kopi Luwak coffee: farmers now raise the critters on farms so the foraging for beans is much easier. When we say growing demand, we mean an astronomical growth. An online story this week featured Gunawan Supriadi, the self-proclaimed Indonesian “King of Luwak”. He has only forty luwaks on his farm at present, but somehow he went from selling 50 kilograms of beans in 2008 to 1.2 metric tons (1200 kilograms or 2645 pounds) of the delicacy just two years later. Do the math – in two years he increased sales by 24 times. Gunawan is strongly motivated. The report said the beans can sell for $364 per pound in the US and other countries, and a cup of this liquid gold has reportedly sold for $100 in London. Kope Luwak beans are swallowed by the civet, which tends to choose the best beans, after he first chews on the outer layer. His stomach enzymes penetrate the beans causing some changes, and then they‘re pooped out. After a thorough washing, the beans are lightly roasted, producing a soft tasting coffee without bitterness. Interestingly enough, it was the Dutch colonialists of a few centuries ago who forced the discovery of these ultra-gourmet beans. Because they banned the native farmers from their Dutch plantations, the natives started collecting the “used” beans they found on the forest floor. Deciding they weren’t so bad tasting, they discovered the best roast – a light one – and so it is the indigenous Indonesian farmers who are credited with discovering Kopi Luwak. As with every commodity, people try to copy nature and find an easier way to mass produce rare delicacies; thus, we now can buy a Vietnamese coffee whose beans are treated with a synthetic vegetable enzyme that supposedly does the same thing as the civet’s enzymes. If there ever has been a cupping contest or taste test between Kopi Luwak and the Vietnamese synthetic version, it wasn’t found by a Google search. But you can do your own taste tests, because ROASTe sells both kinds. (See below.) Enjoy!
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