Odd Coffee Facts: The Legend of Kopi Luwak

October 10, 2012

We know you’re a coffee-educated bunch, A&E fans, so we thought we might begin delving into some odd tidbits in coffee history and unusual coffee facts, to further your coffee-education. At the very least you will have something to chat about over the watercooler or at the next neighborhood barbeque, though we can’t guarantee that people might not give you funny looks.

Amid the jungles of the Indonesian island of Java, something special is brewing. Something so special that we don’t even carry it. Something so special that…you might want to think twice before drinking it. Something so special that, well, we’re compelled to tell you about it because it’s just so weird. Something so special that your coffee daredevil gene may compel you to seek it out. That something special is a coffee called Kopi Luwak, and it comes forth from the intestine of a wild creature.

Can we get an “awwwwww”?

The islands of Indonesia, as referenced in our previous post, about our Sumatran Mandeling IDK (insert link) are home to wild and unusual creatures, the Sumatran Rhino, The Sumatran Tiger and Orangutans among them. The island of Java (a name practically synonymous with the word coffee) is home to the Asian Palm Civet cat – which is not a cat at all, but more an otter or mongoose-like creature. A mongoose-like creature with a jones for coffee beans.

The civet munches coffee cherries, and digests the fruit around the bean. The bean is crunched, crackled and milled by the civet’s digestive tract…and then it is eliminated from the civet’s body. We’re not sure who first realized that this expelled bean may yield something useful, and we can only imagine that they must have been desperate to be brewing coffee from digested materials, but like many things that seem like they shouldn’t, it apparently works. (This post is starting to sound like an episode of Survivorman!)

The partially digested beans are harvested and yes, brewed into coffee, coffee that costs hundreds of dollars/pound and many dozens of dollars/cup. Like many sought-after commodities, it is also faked. Vietnam harvests and sells their own version, too (a real one, not a fake one).

In an attempt to make a potentially inelegant description more elegant we leave you with this – civets are also know for their scent, in fact it was culled for many years to be used in the perfume industry (gives the term “musk” its meaning, no doubt). The coffee they produce is also noted to have a rich aroma and flavor.

These could be accurately described as humble origins.

Thanks to these sites for providing useful information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civet, http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/fooddrink/a/kopi_luak.htm, http://a-z-animals.com/animals/african-civet/pictures/4330/

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