I’m the type of person that loves to try everything. Live octopus in Korea? Check. Braised chicken feet at the dim sum hall in Hong Kong? Check. Chili-dusted, roasted grasshoppers in Mexico? Check.
Before I travel, I research which unique foods are revered by the culture I’m visiting. When I began researching for a vacation to Bali, a striking Indonesian island in Southeast Asia, I came across that probably the most discussed local specialty was kopi luwak.
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Kopi luwak is coffee created from coffee cherries which have been eaten, digested, and defecated by the Asian palm civet, a little mammal that appears like a cross between a cat and a raccoon. The beans are cleaned and processed then. In the West, kopi luwak is becoming referred to as “cat poop coffee.”
With prices ranging between $35 and $100 a cup, or around $100 to $600 a pound, kopi luwak is known as to function as priciest coffee on the planet widely.
Indonesian coffee producers have claimed for generations that the kopi luwak method produces the very best tasting coffee on earth. There are several known reasons for that.
One, the civet is really a highly picky eater and can only eat the very best apparently, most ripe coffee cherries. Two, the animals’ digestive enzymes “change the structure of proteins in the coffees, which removes a number of the acidity to produce a smoother sit down elsewhere,” according to National Geographic. And three, digestion removes all of the fruit pulp that gets left on the bean during processing sometimes.
But there are several very big catches.
Increased demand for kopi luwak has changed the — for the worse
When, in decades past, kopi luwak was an Indonesian specialty simply, it had been almost made by wild civets exclusively. The animals would graze in the wilderness, picking the choicest cherries at their leisure, and coffee producers would search for the dung.
But since coffee expert Tony Wild introduced kopi luwak to the West in the first 1990s because the coffee director of Taylors of Harrogate, all that’s changed. There’s now an enormous demand for the specialty coffee. It’s stocked at luxury retailers around the globe, production has expanded to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines, and, in Indonesia, it’s one of the primary delicacies marketed to tourists.
As imaginable, it isn’t wild civets producing the kopi luwak anymore. While there are a few wild civet operations still, almost all kopi luwak is manufactured out of civets which were captured and devote cages on giant plantations.
“Much like foie gras geese, they’re basically force-fed coffee berries,” Suwanna Gauntlett, founder of Wildlife Alliance, a conservation group, told Globalpost in 2016.
As Wild wrote in a 2013 column calling for a finish to kopi luwak, civets “suffer greatly” from being caged. Solitary naturally, the civets suffer stress when surviving in close proximity to one another, have numerous health issues as a result of coffee-cherry diet, chew by themselves legs, and die often.
Even unless you value animal welfare, there’s the truth that the coffee just doesn’t taste that good. Many say that kopi luwak was discovered during Dutch colonial rule, when Indonesian farmers were barred from harvesting coffee cherries because of their own use. That they had to scrounge around to obtain beans. The dung of the wild civet provided a shortcut to high-quality supposedly, cleaned coffee cherries clear of the mold or decay that would’ve been common at that time.
But any premium coffee you reach your local restaurant originates from cherries processed via a lot more advanced methods than kopi luwak and from uniformly ripe, high-quality cherries, in accordance with Nordic Coffee Culture.
I tried kopi luwak sourced from the family farm — also it was nothing special
When I got eventually to Bali, The Satu was visited by me Satu Café in Canggu, a little coastal town. Satu Satu sources its kopi luwak from owner Eddie Sudana’s six-acre family farm. It’s reputed to be mostly of the places that still sources its beans from cage-free, wild civets.
I figured easily had to use kopi luwak, at the very least I could take action at a accepted place that means it is ethically. It wasn’t even that expensive. If I correctly remember, it was no more than 30-40% a lot more than the standard coffee at Satu Satu.
I love coffee. Espresso, French press, Aeropress, cold-brew, pour-over — It really is drunk by me all. The kopi luwak was nothing special. It tasted smoother than your average diner cup of joe slightly, but not much better than ones I’ve had at any restaurant worth its salt. And there is a gritty, earthy flavor overly.
To be honest, I’ve made better glasses of coffee in my own Aeropress. As of this true time, drinking kopi luwak is more about to be able to tell friends and family you drank probably the most expensive coffee on the globe than some amazing delicacy.
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