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The Very Popular Kopi Luwak Coffee
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Civet coffee (also known as Kopi Luwak) is probably the most talked about coffee on the planet. This delicious coffee is available to us thanks to the eating habits of a small mongoose- like animal called the civet. These little animals inhabit coffee bean plantations and feast on coffee cherries.Their excrement is collected and undigested coffee beans are extracted from it. Although the origins of these coffee beans might seem a bit off putting – the distinctive taste and aroma of this coffee usually wins people over. Despite its strange origins – this coffee is reputed to be the most expensive coffee in the world. This gourmet coffee is becoming increasingly popular around the world – let's find out why.

Civet coffee has been around for a long time. In the early part of the 18th century people working on coffee plantations (ran by Dutch colonialists) on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra were forbidden to take any of the coffee beans for their own use. It's believed that these farmers- desperate for a drop of coffee - picked out coffee beans from the faeces of civets. They cleaned the beans and then roasted and brewed them.

Due to the taste and aroma of these beans – they eventually became popular with the plantation owners. The coffee also became extremely popular with Japanese soldiers who occupied areas of South East Asia during the second world war. In the post-war period interest in civet coffee declined significantly.

However, there has been a recent renewal of interest in it and demand is increasing on a yearly basis. This renewed interest may be partly attributed to the 2007 movie 'The Bucket List' in which Jack Nicholson's character is an avid civet coffee drinker. Media articles about this coffee - highlighting the way it is harvested and its distinctive taste - have also helped to spark enthusiasm for it.

The bulk of civet coffee comes from the Indonsesian island of Sumatra where an early variety of arabica beans are grown. It is also harvested in Java and Sulawesi (Indonesia), Vietnam, Bali and the Philippines. In these locations tree dwelling Asian Palm civets inhabit coffee bean plantations. Civets love coffee cherries and during the night they come out and feast on the the ripest ones they can find (both Arabica and Robusta).

Inside the civet's digestive system proteolytic enzymes penetrate the coffee cherries. The outer part of the coffee cherry is digested leaving the hard coffee 'bean'. The fermentation that occurs within the civet's digestive system is believed to strip away the bitter elements of the coffee beans. About 2 days later the civet excretes the coffee beans.Local farmers search for civet excrement (usually before sunrise). The gathered excrement is then washed, sun dried and prepared to be sold on.

A large proportion of the coffee beans harvested remain in South East Asia where there are many coffee houses that serve Civet Coffee. The remainder is usually exported to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, the US and Europe.

Kopi Luwak is renowned for having a superior taste to other coffees. It has a sweet, rich, chocolately, slightly spicy taste with a bold, rich aroma. Due to the process that goes on within the civet's digestive system – these coffee beans only require light roasting. This helps to preserve the natural flavors of the beans.

This coffee, however, is the most expensive coffee you can buy. This is due largely to the scarcity of these beans. The amount of coffee beans harvested from civet excrement is minimal in comparison to other types of coffee bean. It is dependent on people being able to find dung heaps containing coffee beans and is also influenced by the size of the civet population in particular regions. In some areas civets are hunted for their meat which impacts on their numbers. A further factor that impacts on the price is that the process of collecting these beans is extremely labour intensive.

Who would ever have imagined that the coffee beans that plantation workers plucked from civet excrement (because they weren't allowed to take any coffee beans home) would end up being the most expensive coffee in the world! This fascinating coffee had almost been forgotten about in the post-war period but thankfully in recent years it has undergone a big revival.

People are fascinated by the origins of this coffee and are bowled over by its rich, chocolatey taste. The rarity of this coffee, the labor intensive harvesting processes and the high demand for the product mean that the price is high for Kopi Luwak coffee. Even if the price prevents you from drinking it on regular basis – this gourmet coffee is a great treat. It's such a rare and unusual beverage that it proves to be a great talking point at any social gathering.


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