Civet Coffee | The Best Coffee Money Can Buy

Gourmet Coffee with the Help of a Civet

Whether you have a new found love of coffee following the purchase of a Nespresso machine, or have long been a lover of gourmet coffee, even the charm and skills of George Clooney and John Malkovich will not get you within a sniff of the best coffee beans. If you really want the best aroma, a delicious taste, and have all the bitterness removed for a smooth and aromatic cup of coffee, it takes more than a Krups coffee maker and a warming Clooney smile to come up with the goods.

To get the true gourmet coffee experience you will need to have a lot of patience, not be of a sensitive nature, and have a bag full of ready cash. The best coffee in the world is called civet coffee, or Kopi Luwak,and there is a lot more to production than just collecting the right coffee beans and roasting them. If you really want the best of the best, and have a coffee that has all of the bitterness removed, with a great aroma and smooth taste, you will need to enlist the help of one of these critters. Commonly referred to as a civet cat.

A Civet
A Civet

8/10 Civet Cats Prefer Coffee Beans

Coffee aficionados will be well aware that to take out all the bitterness and to produce a coffee of gourmet standards, the beans cannot simply be roasted; instead they first need to pass through the digestive system of a civet cat. All Indonesian civet cat poo collectors agree that it is the best way to produce coffee beans of exception quality involves getting the hands a little dirty. Civet coffee, or Kopi Luwak, is made from civet cat poo. And it costs a fortune.

Any cat owner reading this with the memory of the daily emptying the litter tray still fresh in the mind, may well be put off trying civet coffee. I for one would not relish the task of pulling beans out of cat poo in order to give myself the morning caffeine hit I so much crave, no matter how smooth and fragrant the final brew.

However if I were to be able to charge $100 to $600 a pound for coffee which has passed through my moggy I may be tempted to buy some Vic’s Vaporub to put up my nose,and get stuck in. Unfortunately, I have been reliably informed that Siamese cats just don’t cut it, which is undoubtedly great news for my cat. My visions of new found wealth were pleasant while they lasted, but having tried to get a worming tablet in the cat quite recently, I was pretty sure that I lacked the skills, determination and patience to get it to eat a pound of coffee beans a day whilst waiting expectantly for nature to take its course.

Who could resist the poo of so lovely a beast
Who could resist the poo of so lovely a beast

The Civet Cat

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that the Civet cat is not actually a cat at all, and that the naming is somewhat misleading. The civet is cat-like, and looks like a cross between a cat and a mongoose, however it comes from a different evolutionary line. It shares a common ancestor with your common or garden domestic cat, but it is actually closer to a Hyena than a moggy in terms of evolution.

Evolutionary biologists had rather a hard time trying to classify the civets, and eventually put them in a separate family called Viverridae, although they are within the order of felines. Interestingly, the family also includes the binturong, or bear-cat, which is neither bear nor cat, but similarly produced some scientific confusion when it came to classification. As is the way with all of these anomalies, whilst they have been classified, no-one really knows for sure from whence they came, but they have all been lumped together in the Feline (Feliformia) order for the time being, under their separate families and have been given rather confusing common names until someone decides they are better placed elsewhere.

There are many species of civet around the world, although for coffee production it is the Asian palm civet which does most of the hard work, also known to scholars and scientists as Paradoxurus hermaphrodus, or Luwak to Indonesians, which is where the majority of civet coffee is produced. Civet coffee is called Kopi Luwak in Indonesian, with Kopi meaning coffee, and Luwak being the name for the small furry beast. The Asian palm civet is a rather sweet creature which loves nothing more than a juicy mango, rambutan and coffee, rather similar to me in that respect. There, unfortunately, the similarities end, and with them so too my dream of becoming obscenely wealthy from eating coffee beans.

The Asian palm civet can be found throughout South and Southeast Asia, from India in the East to the Philippines to the West and South from China to Java, with the majority of civet coffee being produced in Sumatera. The Asian civet It is a relatively small creature, which grows up to around 22 inches with a similar length again for the tail, making it particularly adept at climbing trees and getting around the branches to get the pick of the fruit. It has non retractable claws to get a good purchase, and also has anal scent glands which can produce a particularly nasty secretion when agitated. It is from the civet that Chanel No5 was originally produced, with the secretion taken from the anal glands, although since 1998 they have been able to synthetically recreate the smell of an agitated civet and production continues in a more animal friendly manner.

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Mouth to Mouth

You may be wondering what possessed someone to try to make a morning mug of steaming coffee from civet poo, and for that you have to thank the Indonesians working in the coffee plantations in the Dutch East Indies. Whilst the Dutch overlords were keen to get the local population working hard for them, sampling of their precious cash crop was a definite no-no.

Keen to see what the fuss was all about, a few determined workers decided that if they couldn’t pick the beans themselves, they could collect them with the aid of the civet. Since the Asian civet is particularly fond of coffee fruit, yet the beans pass through unhindered, it was possible to pick up the undigested beans from civet dung, and after a quick rinse and roast, they could produce a rather palatable version of what their masters were drinking.

Picking up on the wonderful aroma of civet coffee, the plantation owners soon realised that the stuff the locals were making was actually far superior to their own, and decided to have that too, but due to the inability to produce sufficient quantities of the coffee, it became extraordinarily expensive, even in colonial times. 

Without getting too bogged down in the details of what happens inside a civet’s digestive tract, I shall summarise. The coffee beans pass through virtually untouched, whilst the coffee fruit is digested. The civet gets what it needs from the fruit, whilst the beans get all their bitterness removed. During the 36 hour journey, some of the proteins in the beans are converted to shorter peptides freeing up amino acids, and the process of malting starts, which is what reduces the bitterness of the beans. When the beans finish their journey, they are thoroughly washed, dried in the sun, and then lightly roasted to produce a complex, aromatic coffee without any of the bitterness usually associated with the humble coffee bean.

Civet Coffee Costs How Much???????

Anyone who balks at the paying 60 cents for a Nespresso capsule should look away now. Kopi Luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee, and depending on which Indonesian coffee shop you frequent, will set you back around $100 a cup. Should you be interested in securing your own source you can expect to pay between $100 and $600 a pound, although if you want to go the whole hog, seek out Civet coffee from wild civets. This is by far the best according to coffee experts, however following the trail of a civet around the coffee plantations takes some time, and thus the cost goes up considerably.

Due to the difficulty in collecting wild civet poo, it will set you back around $3000 a pound. However, if you want a taste of this exotic coffee without the beans having passed through anything mammalian, you can pick up some cheap shit coffee for around $16 a pound, which has been produced thanks to a representation of a Civet’s digestive tract devised by the University of Florida.  Their patented process recreates the environment inside a Civet, and does the same things to the beans, although coffee purists all agree, it just aint the real shit.

If you look for Kopi Luwak civet coffee on Amazon, you will no doubt find it for sale; however make sure you go for 100% civet coffee. Many brands list Kopi Luwak as one of the beans used, and there is even one called Kopi Lawak coffee; however many are not the real deal and only contain a small percentage of Kopi Luwak beans, less than 2% in most cases. If it doesn’t say it’s 100% Kopi Luwak, best not to bother, as by blending it with other beans you will lose the aroma and all the good work the Civet has put in, whilst will still have the expense. It is therefore far better to pay half the price for non civet gourmet coffee.

I have listed a couple of options to the right if you want the real deal, and listed below are a range of excellent coffees which contain not a hint of civet coffee, but are really rather good none the less, and are considerably cheaper!

The Taste Test

Employing a team of tasters and coffee lovers I can report that the final product retains no hint of its early beginnings, and the coffee offers an incredibly smooth taste, without a hint of bitterness, and a distinctive aroma. As an after dinner choice, it may be wise to inform your dinner party guests as to what went into its production. Of course, doing this before offering the coffee will certainly be the cheapest option, although if you have just shelled out $600 for a bag you may as well see it through and tell your guests about the origins after they have finished, as it will be far more amusing.

Is it worth the cost? It was a mixed response from the taste testers, who were happy to extol its virtues when it was free, although all lacked the means or the inclination to shell out $100 a cup out of their own pockets. It has to be said that my recent trip to South East Asia also led to the purchase of what I was informed was a genuine Lowe Alpine rucksack. As it turns out, it was a copy, so the cut price Kopi Luwak by the same reasoning, may not have passed through the digestive tract of an Asian Civet, and could well have passed through something else entirely. And with that, I shall think about it no more, and will stick to Nespresso in future.

A sweet civet cat

A pet civet cat encountered on my travels. The owner used to collect its poo and make his own coffee. It was well looked after and was reasonably friendly
A pet civet cat encountered on my travels. The owner used to collect its poo and make his own coffee. It was well looked after and was reasonably friendly | Source

IMPORTANT NOTE

Since writing this hub many moons ago it has come to light that Indonesian farmers are mass producing this coffee and are treating these sweet creatures to intolerable levels of cruelty, keeping the animals in tiny cages, preventing them from exercise and being fed only coffee beans. While the coffee beans do form a natural part of the animals diet, the poor living conditions result in many animals dying and suffering their whole lives.

Buy all means buy this coffee, but make sure that you only buy wild sourced civet coffee. Unfortunately, since the wild sourced is often mislabeled, it is difficult to be sure that what you are buying does not involve cruelty to animals. The best bet is not to bother at all and stick to other types of gourmet coffee.

I must say I really do dislike PETA, but their video does sum up the situation quite well and I do wholeheartedly believe in the causes they support. Underneath the video is a petition which I would appreciate it if you took a few minutes to sign.

I should point out that while there is uproar about the treatment of these animals, a lot of the time it is because they look so sweet and cute. But do spare a thought for the chickens you eat. Chickens are often kept in far worse conditions than the civet cats in the video below, yet this matter receives scant attention because civet coffee is for the rich, and chicken is eaten by everyone.

I'm not saying go veggie - although you should consider it - just make sure you buy free range animal products if you can possibly afford it.


Why You Should Not Buy this Coffee - Please view and Sign the petition

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Comments 4 comments

StormGale profile image

StormGale 4 years ago from Indiana

I enjoyed your informative article. It answered several of my questions on the topic.


Anita Saran profile image

Anita Saran 2 years ago from Bangalore, India

Great article and very interesting but Civet Cats are suffering horribly at the hands of Indonesian farmers according to Care2Action http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/931/941/...


michifus profile image

michifus 2 years ago Author

After having just returned from Indonesia this does not surprise me. I have removed the amazon capsule for what it is worth, but since I have not sold so much as one coffee bean since writing this hub I can assure you that i haven't contributed to the cruelty. I have also updated this hub with the link to the petition, and an explanation and video. Thanks for pointing this out.

Also worth pointing out is the extent of deforestation in Sumatra. In the 8 years between visits I cannot believe the change, with tens of thousands of acres of jungle cleared to make way for palm oil and rubber plantations.

With the loss of jungle there is the lost of habitats for orangutans and countless species of wildlife that are far less pretty. It is a sad state of affairs. However while it is easy to blame the Indonesians for this, the men need to provide for their families. There are sadly no easy answers.


Anita Saran profile image

Anita Saran 2 years ago from Bangalore, India

Thanks michifus for being so objective about it. And by the way, I'm vegetarian. I wasn't always one but I have been vegetarian for 15 years. Animals are helpless unlike the humans who eat them. Why cause so much suffering just for the sake of greed?

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