Luwak coffee is made from the partially digested feces of a civet cat (an animal that looks like a bobcat and can be found in parts of Asia). How does it work?
This secret has two parts. First, I was told the cats have the ability to pick and consume only the finest coffee berries. These coffee berries are bright red in colour and look similar to a cherry.
Second, the beasts’ bowels contain stomach enzymes that are able to break down the outer layers of the coffee berries, removing the parts of the bean that normally make coffee taste acidic or bitter. The partially digested poop is then cleaned and roasted to make luwak coffee.
I tried my first sip of the stuff about two months ago in Bali and I haven’t developed any diseases or started growing a tail, so I think it’s safe to consume. With a reputation for being the Crème Brulee of coffee, I wasn’t disappointed. The strong bold taste of this coffee had a distinct nutty flavour which was very smooth. The coffee also had somewhat of an earthy tone, but to be honest, I could also taste this flavour in the “regular” coffee I drank in Bali which was a quarter of the price.
I enjoyed hearing about the processing of luwak coffee, but it seemed like a gimmick to me. It’s one of foods you try so you can say, “I drank poop coffee”. And yes, I am guilty of that. The locals in Bali do not drink luwak coffee every day, and even though I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I didn’t taste that much of a difference between the two.
There are also the animal welfare issues to consider with this coffee. How are these civet cats being kept? The two cats I saw were in cages with a bucket of coffee berries in their cage. So, although I’m a dog person, I wouldn’t support luwak coffee if this is how the animals are treated. The man touring us around the coffee plantation assured me the animals are able to run free. I’m not sure I’m convinced.
I also asked him the question, “How would anyone ever think to process their poop?” He didn’t have an answer for me. But what I do know is luwak coffee is extremely expensive and it won’t be replacing my regular brew.