Saturday, October 23, 2010

Palou Bali, Indonesia: Kopi Luwak

Southeast Asia, and in particular Indonesia, is a prime region for growing coffee, or "kopi" in Indonesian.  There are several varieties grown--  Coffea arabica, Coffea liberica, and Coffea canephora, with the latter variety the most prevalent variety grown today.  Coffee is a major export crop for Indonesia.  Perhaps more interesting than the varieties grown are the various means of processing the beans, with none more exotic than luwak coffee.It goes by different names in SE Asia, but Luwak is the name used in Bali and Indonesia.  This coffee is quite expensive to buy, and is to coffee conniseurs what a bottle of a fine rare cabernet is to the wine conniseur.  A single cup of coffee, served in the POSH coffee houses of London have been known to cost as much as 50 pounds sterling.  (About US$79).  Beans sell for US$100 to US$600 per pound.

Coffee berries on the tree--  berries are red when ripe
The name is derived from a small animal commonly known as the civet, and luwak in Indonesian.  This small furry animal looks something like a mink, but with a more passive demeanor.
The Indonesian civet or Luwak busy at work-- digesting coffee berries.
The civet has an appetite for coffee beans, and allegedly has developed the instinct for selecting only the berries which are at optimal ripeness.  It's digestive system takes in only the fleshy portion of the berry and passes the beans, and in the process, chemically modifying the proteins of the beans to have more free amino acids.  The output of the civet is the input to the luwak coffee--  the collected "beans" are carefully cleaned and very lightly roasted.  As the civet is a small animal, production is limited.
Indonesian coffee beans "mid way" through the process.  The civet's work here is done.  Now it is time to thoroughly wash and very slightly roast the beans.  If done properly the process yields beans which are no worse health-wise than any other coffee beans.
So you are thinking, as was I, "Who thought of this?  This must be someone's idea of a joke".  Well, given the unique opportunity to do so, I had to try it.  I'm not a coffee connisseur, but the coffee is, to borrow a term, full flavored.  Those that are connisseurs describe it as having an "earthy" flavor with no bitterness, which I think would be my description too.  Not surprising, luwak coffee sees a large market in Japan, although the U.S. is also a big consumer.
The beans, before (top) and after (bottom) roasting.
I can't say I like it ("poo" coffee) well enough to pay US$79 for one cup, but I did buy some coffee beans to bring home.
"Who made this?  This coffee tastes like $#!?"

The poo coffee klatch

The story of luwak coffee.  Paradoxurus is the genus of civets in Indonesia

1 comment:

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