A Taste of Kopi Luwak: the Most Expensive Coffee in the World
We at Cafe Rozella like to stock high quality coffee, (which is why we carry Lighthouse Roasters). Today, however, I had the experience of tasting the most exclusive and most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak. Good friend and customer, John Barry, brought some “weasel coffee” by, which he picked up when he trekked in Asia with his son. When he offered to share some with me, needless to say I was game. My review below but first a primer on Kopi Luwak.
Kopi Luwak is literally the most expensive coffee in the world, costing upwards of $600 a pound or $50 for a cup of coffee. “Kopi” is the Indonesian word for coffee and “luwak” is local name of the animal which eats the raw red coffee beans that make up this coffee. The Luwak is rodent, a civet, which eats the ripe red coffee beans and then excretes the beans. The civet dung is then harvested and dried and processed like regular coffee beans. There are various theories as to why the digestion of the beans by the civet yields such exquisite coffee beans. One theory holds that the civet only picks beans that are at peak maturity and hence perfect for harvest. A wiki article explains the process as follows:
A popular and intuitive hypothesis to justify this coffee’s reputation proposes that the beans are of superior quality before they are even ingested. At any given point during a harvest, some coffee berries are not quite ripe or overripe, while others are just right. The palm civet evolved as an omnivore that naturally eats fruit and passes undigested material as a natural link to disperse seeds in a forest ecosystem. Where coffee plants have been introduced into their habitat, civets only forage on the most ripe berries, digest the fleshy outer layer, and later excrete the seeds eventually used for human consumption. Thus, when the fruit is at its peak, the seeds (or beans) within are equally so, with the expectation that this will come through in the taste of a freshly brewed cup. As this may be true for the beans derived from wild-collected civet feces, farm-raised civets are likely fed beans of varying quality and ripeness, so one would expect the taste of farm-raised beans to be less.Further research by Dr. Massimo Marcone at the University of Guelph (CA) has shown that the digestive juices of the civet actually penetrate the beans and change the proteins, resulting in their unique flavor.
I am generally not shy about trying exotic foods (heck I live in White Center), so when John offered to let me taste some “weasel coffee” I naturally took him up on his offer. The fact that the coffee comes from civet dung was of little consequence in my mind. Hell, most people eat testicles and other parts of the animal that horrify me.
Ok, so is it worth $50 a cup? Well, I liken it to a very good wine. Would I drink it every day, no but I might splurge and try it on a special occassion. That said, the coffee was exquisite. First, the coffee has a velvety, almost chocolate consistency to it. It is sweet, not unlike a good red wine varietal. As well it is very smooth, with no hint of bitterness. The richness of its flavor affects the whole mouth such that you can hold it and taste with every part of your taste buds. Very pleasant and smooth.
After it goes down, it has nothing of the jolt quality that a regular cup of espresso would give. Rather, there is a pleasant buzz, almost like you get from a fine cigar. All in all, the best cup of coffee I have tasted. But is it worth $50 for a cup? Clearly not in desperate economic times. But, next time I travel to Asia, I’ll make a point of picking up a couple of pounds. If you would like to taste it, drop me a line and pledge a donation to the White Center Food Bank. Winner gets a cup of the finest coffee in the world. Cheers and bottoms up!
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