Kopi Luwak or civet coffee, is the world’s most expensive and low-production coffee. It is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet or other related civets, then passed through its digestive tract. A civet eats the berries for their fleshy pulp. In its stomach, proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet’s intestines the beans are then defecated, keeping their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness, widely noted as the most expensive coffee in the world.
Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines (where the product is called motit coffee in the Cordillera and kape alamid in Tagalog areas) and also in East Timor (where it is called kafé-laku).
In early 18th century The Dutch established the cash-crop plantations in their colony in Dutch East Indies islands of Java and Sumatra, including Arabica coffee introduced from Yemen. During the era of Cultuurstelsel (1830—1870), the Dutch prohibited the native farmers and native plantation workers to pick coffee fruits for their own use. Yet the native farmers desired to have a taste of the famed coffee beverage. Soon the natives learned that certain species of musang or luwak (Asian Palm Civet) consumed these coffee fruits, yet they left the coffee seeds undigested in their droppings. The natives collect these Luwak’s dropping coffee seeds; clean, roast and grind it to make coffee beverage. The fame of aromatic civet coffee spread from locals to Dutch plantation owners and soon become their favorites, yet because of its rarity and unusual process, the civet coffee was expensive even in colonial times.
Kopi is the Indonesian word for coffee. Luwak is a local name of the Asian palm civet in Sumatra and Johor, Malaysia. Palm civets are primarily frugivorous, feeding on berries and pulpy fruits such as from fig trees and palms. Civets also eat small vertebrates, insects, ripe fruits and seeds.
Early production began when beans were gathered in the wild from where a civet would defecate as a means to mark its territory. On farms, civets are either caged or allowed to roam within defined boundaries.
Coffee cherries are eaten by a civet for their fruit pulp. After spending about a day and a half in the civet’s digestive tract the beans are then defecated in clumps, having kept their shape and still covered with some of the fleshy berry’s inner layers. They are gathered, thoroughly washed, sun dried and given only a light roast so as to keep the many intertwined flavors and lack of bitterness yielded inside the civet.
Kopi luwak is a name for many specific cultivars and blends of arabica, robusta, liberica, excelsa or other beans eaten by civets, hence the taste can vary greatly. Nonetheless, kopi luwak coffees have a shared aroma profile and flavor characteristics, along with their lack of bitterness.
Kopi luwak tastes unlike heavy roasted coffees, since roasting levels range only from cinnamon color to medium, with little or no caramelization of sugars within the beans as happens with heavy roasting. Moreover, kopi luwaks which have very smooth profiles are most often given a lighter roast. Iced kopi luwak brews may bring out some flavors not found in other coffees.
Sumatra, Indonesa is the world’s largest regional producer of kopi lowak. Sumatran civet coffee beans are mostly an early arabica variety cultivated in the Indonesian archipelago since the seventeenth century. Tagalog cafe alamid (or alamid cafe) comes from civets fed on a mixture of coffee beans and is sold in the Batangas region along with gift shops near airports in the Philippines.