Today’s coffee market is full of diversity. There’s bound to be a little bit of something for everybody, from organic blends raised exclusively using eco-friendly farming methods to beans harvested from exotic locations But, of all the types of coffee out there, none stand out more, both because of its price and how it’s harvested, than Kopi Luwak coffee.
Kopi Luwak coffee is expensive because of a combination of high demand and the limited quantities of Kopi Luwak that the civets can produce naturally.
In order to find out more about this unique coffee and why its so expensive, I did some research on both Kopi Luwak and Civets and this is what I found out.
What Is Kopi Luwak Coffee?
To understand what makes Kopi Luwak Coffee so expensive, it is important to first learn about the coffee bean’s origins and when it all first started.
During the early 18th century, when the Dutch still occupied the islands of Java and Sumatra as one of their colonies, the Dutch prohibited the native farmers in the said areas from picking coffee fruits for personal use. However, it didn’t take long for the native farmers to find a way to have a taste of coffee to themselves.
After noticing that the luwak, the local term for the Asian palm civet, consumed coffee fruits but would leave undigested coffee seeds in their droppings when they marked their territories, the natives began collecting the seeds for their own use. They would clean, roast, and ground these undigested “droppings” and use them to make their own version of coffee.
The result of their ingenuity was a unique, aromatic blend of coffee that even the Dutch would soon develop a taste for. Even so, because of how hard the droppings were to procedure, the coffee was considered as more of a rarity and was already quite expensive even then.
Later on, the locals would start referring to the coffee as Kopi Luwak, which literally translates to “coffee of the Asian palm civet.”
How Much does Kopi Luwak Coffee Cost?
Just a single cup of Kopi Luwak coffee can cost you as much as $100. To put that into context, the average cup of coffee from Starbucks costs a little over $3. That means, for a single cup of Kopi Luwak coffee, you could have had as many as 50 cups of coffee from the world-famous coffeehouse chain – a month’s supply for the average coffee drinker.
So, what is it about Kopi Luwak that makes it so expensive? Does it taste that much better compared to other types of coffee? Is it better for your health? Does it wake up you up more than the average cup of coffee?
What Makes Kopi Luwak Different?
The Asian palm civet is a cat-like creature native to Southeast Asia. These creatures call the numerous dense forests and thick jungles of countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, and East Timor home.
Although Kopi Luwak coffee is produced in all three of the said countries, most of the Kopi Luwak coffee sold commercially comes from the Indonesian islands, Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi.
The main difference between Kopi Luwak and other types of coffee is how it is procured. In essence, the coffee comes from the droppings of the Asian palm civet. However, it is not, literally, civet droppings. Rather, the civets apparently have developed the ability to pick out only the best and highest quality coffee cherries from coffee plants in the wild for their consumption.
Not only that, but because the beans have to pass through the civet’s digestive tract before they are excreted and subsequently harvested – the hyperactive digestive system of the civets help remove most of the bitter aftertaste of the coffee bean – Kopi Luwak is able to give off this unique aroma and flavour that makes it so desirable in the eyes of many.
How Is Kopi Luwak Farmed?
Traditionally, farming Kopi Luwak looks less like your typical coffee bean farming, and more about knowing how to hunt the civets and where they’re likely to defecate.
Because the civets are omnivorous and feed on anything from coffee cherries to small insects, farmers gathered the feces in huge quantities where they hope to find the dried beans. Once collected, the beads are washed, dried, de-skinned, and eventually, roasted, before they are made ready for consumption or sale.
This grueling and labor-intensive process is also part of the reason why Kopi Luwak is so expensive.
Unfortunately, some people are taking advantage of the market for Kopi Luwak. Instead of harvesting the droppings in the world, there are those who have resorted to keeping civets in cages and force-feeding them coffee beans for a higher yield. But civets are not used to living in captivity and their diet also must not solely consist of just coffee beans.
As a result of this unhealthy practice, Kopi Luwak produced from caged civets is considered by many coffee connoisseurs as substantially inferior to Kopi Luwak harvested traditionally.
What are the Health Benefits of Kopi Luwak Coffee?
Many avid Kopi Luwak drinkers don’t just drink it for the unique aroma or taste, they also drink this expensive coffee for its percieved health benefits.
While there mostly isn’t any solid scientific evidence behind the said health benefits of Kopi Luwak, there are many claims, including:
- Antibacterial properties leading to improved dental health and lowered risk for oral cancer, as well as cavities.
- Reduced risk of breast cancer and skin cancer.
- Low on chlorogenic acid, making it great for diabetes patients while also lowering one’s risk for diabetes.
- Rich in antioxidants, which has been proven to help prevent Parkinson’s disease and other types of neurological complications.
- Rich in malic acid, which, many experts believe, is the reason why it gives a longer-lasting boost of energy compared to other types of coffee.
- Higher levels of citric acid compared to other types of coffee.
- Higher levels of inositol, which has been shown to help improve symptoms of polycistic ovarian snydrome (PCOS), depression, anxiety, as well as obsessive compulsive disorder.
Is Kopi Luwak Safe to Drink?
Try not to worry too much about the little details. Or, in the case of Kopi Luwak, the fact that it’s made from beans that’s gone through the digestive system of Asian palm civets.
Authentic and real Kopi Luwak beans have been thoroughly cleaned and rosted at over 400 Fahrenheit to ensure that they are safe to drink by just about anyone.
Think of it this way. The food that you’re probably eating now used to be just a lump of dead animal, but you’re still eating it, right? Even if you’re not a fan of meat, vegetables grow in manure, which isn’t really any prettier of a sign to try and picture when you really think about it.
The truth is, a lot of the food that we enjoy every day are weird when you really think about where they come from, but that has never stopped you from enjoying them before, right? So, why stop now?
How to Buy Kopi Luwak Coffee
For your peace of mind, make sure that the Kopi Luwak coffee you’re purchasing checks off on these three criteria:
- The coffee beans were sustainably sourced from Asian palm civets living in the wild.
- The coffee beans were collected by local farmers by hand.
- Officially certified by either the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), Rainforest Alliance, or UTZ Certified. (For more information on coffee certifications, here is my post)
7 Tips for Brewing Kopi Luwak Coffee
Because of how expensive Kopi Luwak coffee is, you will want to do it right. Here are 7 tips that should help make sure that you enjoy a perfect cup of Kopi Luwak coffee every time you get the chance:
- If at all possible buy FRESH roasted whole Kopi Luwak coffee beans but at the very least buy whole bean. Don’t buy them ground. Grind only what you need for the pot or cup of coffee that you need. This is because ground coffee stales and loses more of its natural taste faster compared to whole beans.
- Store the beans in a dry, dark place and inside an airtight container at room temperature. Never put the beans inside the refrigerator or freezer.
- Use clean and filtered water for the best taste possible.
- Bring the water to a boil first and let it cool for about 45 seconds. Use this when brewing your Kopi Luwak coffee.
- As a rule of thumb, never use more than 9 grams of coffee per 170 ml (6 ounces) of water or better yet use a 16g to 1g of water ratio. Check out my post on Coffee Scales, if you need one)
- Don’t let the coffee sit for more than 1 hour. Even though there some truth to letting the coffee cool in order to really appreciate its flavor, If you can’t finish your coffee that quickly, put it inside a thermos or insulated water battle after brewing. This way, you’ll be able to retain your Kopi Luwak coffee at its peak flavor.
- Also, more important than how you prepare your Kopi Luwak coffee is where you source the coffee itself. It has been said that there are much more Kopi Luwak coffee sold on the market than there is produced. Many shady businessmen are taking advantage of the popularity of Kopi Luwak and are selling counterfeit versions to try and make a profit.
Should I Start Drinking Kopi Luwak Coffee?
Kopi Luwak is, at the very least, a delicacy well worth trying. You may not be able to afford it to drink a cup on a regular basis, but you owe it to yourself to try it at least once in your life. Only then will you be able to tell if the hype surrounding Kopi Luwak is warranted or not.
Just be careful. If you’re thinking of trying out Kopi Luwak, don’t just rush off and buy the first bag that you see at your local store or online. The thing is, there are plenty of shady individuals who are looking to take advantage of the popularity of Kopi Luwak and it’s not uncommon for people to buy something that turned out to be completely fake.
Although may actually contain a bit of Kopi Luwak in the blend, other counterfeit products don’t contain even just a hint of Kopi Luwak at all.
Even if you do end up buying a legitimate Kopi Luwak product, you will want to make sure that it was sourced from civet cats living in the wild – not from farmers who put civets behind cages and subject them to their own personal gain.
Make sure that you do your research right and drink only when you’re sure that what you have in your hands is real thing
Yes. Genuine and authentic Kopi Luwak coffee is rare and expensive. It’s also very difficult to procure. However, if you do get a chance to try out the real thing, don’t let it slip.