The Most Expensive Coffee Comes from a Civet Cat

This particular variety of coffee is actually one of the worlds’ most expensive and low production varieties. Civet coffee is like other blends and brands of coffee, but with a surprising and sometimes indigestible twist: The coffee berries (and beans) used to produce Civet Coffee must be eaten by the Asian Palm Civet Cat.

The civet cat eats coffee berries for their fleshy pulp. However, their bodies cannot digest the beans that pass through the cat’s digestive tract. Scientifically (and very briefly), proteolytic enzymes in the cat’s stomach cause a chemical change in the beans that reduce the bitterness in the coffee bean. Once gathered, the beans are given a thorough cleaning, sun dried and very lightly roasted to create an aromatic coffee significantly less bitter than any other coffee imaginable. The lack of coffee’s distinctive bitterness makes Civet Coffee the world’s most expensive coffee.

Kopi Luwak production occurs primarily in former Dutch East Indies colonies on the islands of Sumatra (still the world’s largest regional producer), Java, Bali and Sulawesi of the Indonesian Archipelago. Historically, it dates back to the early 18th Century when the Dutch established coffee plantation as a cash crop. The native’s desire to taste the famed beverage coffee led the natives to discover that certain local animals (The Asian Palm Civet and other civet cats) consumed the fruits but left the beans undigested and whole. They harvested these beans, cleaned and ground it to make their own coffee. Once discovered by plantation owners, they realized what the natives had created: One of the most aromatic and least bitter forms of coffee, with a price tag to match.

Today cultivators blend Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, Excelsa and other beans in the civet cat’s diet to create a palette tantalizing array of tastes and aromas but all share the same aroma profile, flavor and the lack of bitterness. Sumatran Civet Coffee is the most common but that is still limited to a handful of regions on the island.

The civet cat (“Luwak” in Indonesian) has a diet consisting primarily of berries and pulpy fruits. On farms, the civet cats are caged or free roam within a defined enclosure with a plentiful supply of coffee cherries in their diet. On average, the beans take 36 hours to pass through the digestive tract of the cat before it is defecated, harvested, cleaned and processed. The light roasting helps to preserve the blend of interlinked flavors without increasing its bitterness.

Kopi Luwak remains the most expensive coffee in the world, retailing anywhere between $100.00 USD to a high of $600.00 USD per pound. The specialty Vietnamese civet coffee, made exclusively by collecting the beans eaten by wild civet cats sells at $3000.00 USD per pound. Civet coffee can only be found at the most exclusive of the up-market coffee shops such as the Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms in Queensland Australia ($35.00 USD per cup), and the brasserie at the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square, London ($79.00 USD per cup). In the heart of downtown Milan, “Peck” sells an espresso cup of Civet Coffee for 15 Euros.

Now, my birthday is coming up in a month…I think that is a clear hint on what I want.