Kopi Luwak, The Rarest Drink in the World

Perhaps the rarest coffee in the world, to say that Kopi Luwak is unique would be a gross understatement. Low production volumes make this coffee quite expensive, with prices often reaching hundreds of dollars per pound. What makes this coffee so unique is that the coffee beans are harvested from coffee berries that have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet and passed through its digestive system; Kopi is the Indonesian word for coffee and Lupak is the local name for the Civet in the area of Sumatra. The defecated beans maintain their shape and are collected, washed, dried and roasted at more than 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In the stomach of the Civet, the beans are exposed to enzymes that shorten peptides and free amino acids, resulting in an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness.

The History of Kopi Luwak

Primarily produced on the Indonesian Islands of Bali, Java, and Sumatra, Kopi Luwak is closely linked to the history of Indonesian coffee production. In the early 1700s, the Dutch established coffee plantations in their colonies on the islands of Java and Sumatra. Prized for its value in exports to Europe, the local farmers of the colonies were not allowed to drink the coffee they harvested. Eventually the farmers realized that the droppings of the Civets contained undigested beans that could be cleaned, roasted, and brewed into their own coffee drink. Word soon spread, and demand for this version of the local coffee grew, which commanded a high price even in those times.

Research and Imitation

Much research has been done on this rarest of coffees. Foremost perhaps is a study that determined the way the Civet’s digestive system affects the beans and their eventual flavor. More recently, studies have been completed that have identified ways to imitate the process that the coffee beans endure while passing through the digestive system of the Civet. These studies have led to the processing and production of some coffees that claim to maintain the same flavor of the Kopi Luwak at a price closer to that of ordinary coffee. While some farms cage the civets to produce this rare coffee, the University of Florida has developed a method that does not involve any animals at all.

Kopi Luwak is certainly a delicacy and perhaps the rarest drink in the world. For some, the whole idea is a turn off; for others, like Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie by the same name, experiencing this rarity is on their bucket list.



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