There are more than a few words to explain why kopi luwak coffee is so expensive. To have a clearer idea we need to go back to the colonial period.
A bit of history of Kopi Luwak coffee
The history of the kopi luwak coffee is closely related at when Indonesia was colonised by the Dutch who first imported coffee plantations from the Yemen country. Back then, harvesting coffee was prohibited so Indonesian and local farmers were forced to find another solution. And here’s the Indonesian name “Kopi Luwak”: Kopi stands for coffee and Luwak is simply the name of the civet which he’s called in several ways such as palm civet, civet cat, cat poop coffee (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus) and so on. The species is the mongoose, to be more precise.
Anyway, back at that time, local farmers realised that a great number of coffee beans were excreted by these civets and they decided to consume coffees from their excretion. After being collected from the ground, the beans were washed and then sun-dried before being processed (the process remove all doubt about contamination as coffee beans are roasted at high temperature).
So, why kopi luwak coffee is so expensive?
There are more factors to take into consideration as all of them make this coffee the most expensive in the world.
1 – The kopi luwak process
The unusual process that takes part inside the civet’s stomach. After being eaten, the cherries go through a sort of fermentation process where the digestive enzymes break down some of the proteins lowering its content. The result is often described as a smoother cup.
According to the National Geographic, “the animals’ digestive enzymes “change the structure of proteins in the coffee beans, which removes some of the acidity to make a smoother cup of coffee.”
2 – The excellent sense of smell of these mongooses
It lets them pick only the ripest berries from the arabica bushes
Unfortunately, this latter one is not anymore considered as the real thing that makes the price of the coffee ridiculously expensive.
The only thing that is now considered is the process which makes the coffee unique, so a good way to overprice but also a “dodgy business”
A more realistic explaination for the overpricing
When kopi luwak was free to roam through the forest it was able to feed with the ripest cherries alongside small reptiles and insects.
At that time coffee was obviously of better quality than nowadays with the civet able to have his proper diet, eating tropical fruit such as pineapples and papaya. Also, as a nocturnal creature, it was able to hunt during the night and to sleep for the rest of the day.
What happened then?
As time goes by, the unusual process that happens inside the civet was spreading everywhere and it became in recent years a real business.
Price increased dramatically so it became commercial: mass farming came true and the kopi luwak is now forced to live in a battery-cage like chicken in the tiniest living condition ever seen and forced to eat any coffee berries (arabica/robusta and ripe/unripe cherries) to produce coffee as quickly as possible and to make easier for the farmers to collect the beans. This is not only a way to attract tourists, but also cause distress and injuries to the cat civet as this creature used to roam free and solitary.
So, many years ago, people started to mass farming, over-pricing fake wild coffee to make the most out of any coffee sold from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines (these latter are the other places where kopi luwak is produced). Now you think this is the worst part but unfortunately, there are even worse consequences that need a mention such as:
- The health of the kopi luwak: you may haven’t had the chance to take a flight to Indonesia and see the living condition of these creatures but you have probably seen how chicken live in their battery;
- Lacking certification: no one can tell you if the bag of coffee you want to buy comes from a wild civet or a caged animal. The most important certifiers such as UTZ or Rainforest Alliance recommend to not buy any kopi luwak as in most of the case they are all fake;
- Not only arabica beans: as this coffee comes from a caged animal you are also not certified to buy only arabica coffee and also about the ripeness of the cherry eaten by the kopi luwak.
And last but not least, another mention must be made about the related business that was created alongside the kopi luwak success.
In Thailand, another ridiculous business was invented collecting coffee beans from the faeces of the elephant and it’s known as Elephant Dung Coffee or Black Ivory Coffee. Also, in Brazil, another poop coffee is made by the jacu bird. You can google both (or maybe not) if you want to know more.
What does kopi luwak taste like?
When regarding what’s in the cup, coffee is often described as earthy, nutty. It has a strong aroma, lacking acidity and bitterness so a pretty average coffee.
How much does a cup of kopi luwak cost?
Asking if it’s worth the price? Kopi luwak can cost up to 60 pounds per cup make this coffee the most expensive in the world.
I don’t need to tell you if it’s worth as you may have realised just now by reading the article.
Are you interested in trying this coffee? I’m not interested to know if you would like to buy or try just a single cup as you are free to do wherever you want. Honestly, I never had the chance to taste it but it’s not on my bucket list for sure.
Even when this coffee was able to roam freely, it has never been outstanding due to the process it occurs on the stomach of the animal. As I write down before, most of the proteins are broken down by the civet’s enzymes making a smoother cup lacking in acidity.
As acidity is one of the main quality of coffee (as coming from a berry, coffee is acidic and fruity) you may have already figured out that we are hardly going to taste speciality coffee (intended as an 80+ cupping score).
So, even in case of a wild 100% arabicaarabica kopi luwak, you may have all the bag of coffee on your shelf with a much better cupping score and a price that is 3 times less than a 30-pound kopi luwak bag.
If you want to pay for quality perhaps you should try any 90+ coffee that grows in a sustainable environment.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.