A Taste of Kopi Luwak

We first mentioned kopi luwak, or palm civet coffee, while we were traveling in Vietnam. Considered the most expensive coffee in the world (yes, even more expensive than Starbucks), the beans undergo one unusual step in the processing which leaves some people gulping in delight and others gagging in disgust.

Coffee berries are fed to civet cats which function as little enzyme machines shortening peptide bonds and increasing free amino acids in the beans. After passing the precious load, the beans are collected, washed, sun-dried and lightly roasted. Connoisseurs swear the chemical changes make for a tastier and less bitter coffee blend.

Some of you may remember from our Vietnam post that we were quite skeptical about whether the weasel coffee we sampled there was authentic. So if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Fast forward to our recent bike tour to Ubud. After the trip, we stopped by a coffee farm to take another shot at the unusual brew – different shop, different civet. Actually, the small farm was a complete coffee and tea tasting experience with kopi luwak as the final highlight.

After free samples of vanilla coffee, lemon tea, sweet hot cocoa (as well as a side dish of shavings of orange-tinted chocolate), Lisa, Garrett, Tony and I got to taste the real kopi luwak (fresh from the weasel, so to speak). Kurt and Aimee passed on the experience. At $6 for an expresso-sized cup complete with cinnamon bark stirrer, the price for the luxurious drink was “a bargain.” But after so much build-up, our expectations were high.

Drum roll. It tasted… just like… uhhh… Starbucks. What the hell?!? I would accuse Starbucks of getting its beans out of a civet’s butt, but – well – cost tells me otherwise. I’ve never really liked Starbucks coffee, but I guess it tastes just like the most expensive coffee in the world. I might have to reconsider my opinion of Starbucks. You don’t suppose they have a little civet sweatshop somewhere in the third world, do you?

9 responses to “A Taste of Kopi Luwak”

  1. avatar Greeneyes says:

    I guess it could be a great picker upper if and when you are all pooped out.

  2. avatar Lisa Nunn says:

    I think Tony’s eyes in this photo look remarkably like the luwat’s eyes in the photo above him. Coincidence?? Or has Tony had a little too much of the fancy coffee?

  3. I enjoyed your chemical explanation of the process, Thomas. As the wise one once said, “Better living through chemistry.”

    As a coffee snob myself, I must correct your estimation that Starbucks is the standard for commercial coffee. I’ve had MUCH better, locally fresh-roasted coffee beans here in the little-old Methow Valley.

    Not out of a civet butt though.

  4. avatar Sithonia says:

    Good for you! You did it! We were in Vietnam last year, but never had the courage (or desire…) to taste the weasel coffee.

  5. Hahaha.. tasted like Starbucks! Anyway, after trying the Luwak (Bali), Tenom (Borneo) and Weasel (Vietnam), my prize goes to Vietnam!

    How have you guys been? Again, it was a pleasure to have met up with the both of you in KL.


  6. avatar B L H says:

    Interesting article and adventure guys, now I know why I never been keen to have Starbucks coffee… Not a fan of a civet much less what comes out it ass…:)

  7. avatar Simone says:

    Tastes like Starbucks coffee? Yuck. Not worth it at any price. Now give me a good Italian espresso, by which I mean in Italy, and then you know ambrosia! And it will cost much less.

  8. avatar David says:

    I’d like to give this a try! How do I find the coffee farm?

  9. avatar Thomas says:

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to find this particular farm again. The driver stopped there after our bike tour in Ubud.

    The good thing is, there are coffee farms all over Bali, and many of them offer kopi luwak (I’ve seen it advertised many times). Once you are in Bali, just ask around.

    …and enjoy!

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