“It’s very strong, even for me”, explained the Coffee Addict, “but it’s very smooth.” She was describing Kopi Luwak, which is a famous coffee from Indonesia. It’s special because it is so smooth to drink, without any bitterness or harsh aftertaste. You’d expect this flavour to make it very popular, but it’s more of a novelty than an everyday drink. This is true even in Indonesia where it’s produced. This is because the bitterness is removed from the coffee beans by an unusual process that makes Kopi Luwak very expensive. Would you like to meet the producer?
Asian Palm Civet courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons. Source: http://www.squidoo.com/alamidcoffee
I’d like to introduce the Asian Palm Civet, also known as Luwak. This little omnivore is the expert processor of Kopi Luwak. He’s a cute little fellow, but not everyone is happy to hear that the unique flavour of Kopi Luwak results from his digestive processes. The bitterness of the coffee is removed when he eats the coffee berries, which he excretes in little piles to mark his territory. The coffee is then collected, washed, and lightly roasted to produce the beverage.
Kopi Luwak is not widely available in Australia. I was lucky enough to be given a taste test by an Indonesian friend. His parents were visiting and they brought a present of Luwak Arabica with them. He was kind enough to share the treat for afternoon tea in our department.
The Kopi Luwak drew a crowd of people. Some were tasting the coffee and others just spectating. A few people filled their cups with the “special coffee” without knowing how it was made. Luckily most of them didn’t wrinkle their noses on hearing the story, and some were quite excited by the idea.
I filled two cups, one with Kopi Luwak and one with regular coffee supplied by our department. The aim was to compare the two. The tasting proved that Kopi Luwak really is less bitter than regular coffee. It doesn’t grab your throat with a harsh aftertaste like the departmental coffee.
So Kopi Luwak really does taste special, but isn’t the process offputting? Hearing that the Palm Civet is an omnivore is a little worrying, but seeing his gorgeous face sets your mind at ease. Besides, eating foods that have been transformed by living organisms isn’t too weird. Think of yoghurt and bread. They have special qualities endowed on them by living organisms, and acidophilus and yeast aren’t nearly as cute as a Palm Civet.