Why Civet Coffee is the Best Coffee Ever

Civet CoffeeAt more than ten dollars an ounce, civet coffee or kopi luwak is probably the most expensive coffee in the world. Some coffee connoisseurs will say that it is also the world’s most delicious coffee, and there is good reason why this just might be the whole truth.

Coffee with a History

“The history of civet coffee (kopi luwak) cannot be separated from the history of its origin country… Indonesia was a Dutch colony since 16th century. During the colony period, the Dutch disallowed the native coffee farmers to collect coffee fruits for their own consumptions. However, those farmers also had a high desire for coffee beverage.

Soon, they realized that certain species of civet (luwak) ate those coffee cherries, yet they left the coffee cherries undigested in their droppings… They then collected the cherries, cleaned, roasted and ground it to make coffee beverage. Surprisingly, it produced a remarkable coffee aroma. From then, the fame of aromatic civet coffee (kopi luwak) spread from the natives to Dutch coffee plantation owners and soon became everyone’s favorite till nowadays.”

Since the 18th century, when the colonists realized what a treasure the civets unintentionally produced, civet coffee has been an expensive brew.

The Civet Coffee Process

Civet coffee refers to the coffee digested and defecated by the Paradoxurus hermaphrodites, popularly known as the Asian palm civet or the toddy cat. Civet coffee involves a two-fold process that gives the resulting brew its distinctive flavor.

  • Bean selection. In the wild, the civets hand pick berries and choose only the best. They eat the pulp that covers the beans without biting into the hull.
  • The beans go through the civet’s digestive track where they undergo a certain degree of fermentation and where enzymes called protease penetrate the beans; this causes a change in the beans’ protein structure.

Left to themselves, the civets will pick only the ripest coffee beans. They will also eat only as much as they want, and they will defecate where the urge overtakes them. These three variables are now controlled by large-scale civet coffee producers.

In civet coffee farms, the cats are kept in captivity and fed as many pounds of beans as they are able to consume. This practice has elicited the opposition of animal rights activists. Today, those who want to drink this coffee while protecting animal rights usually opt for civet coffee produced in areas like Southern Mindanao where the civets are allowed to run free.

The Big Difference

How different is a cup of civet coffee from other coffee cups? Here is what Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor of says.

“There is a difference in flavor. Kopi Luwak is noticeably not bitter. Swallow a sip, and it’s like you just drank some water. There’s no sting or heavy flavor left in the back of your throat. That makes sense. Proteins are part of what is responsible for the bitterness of coffee. Kopi Luwak beans have fewer whole proteins than normal beans. So they’re less bitter, but still taste good. As my husband put it, “Everything that is wrong with cheap gas station coffee is right about this.”

Civet coffee is milder and less acidic without losing the essential flavors that make coffee what it is. If you love coffee, try a cup of this exotic brew – even if it may be too pricey for a six-cup-a-day habit.

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