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What is The World's Most Expensive Coffee?

Updated on May 4, 2017
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Grand Old Lady is embracing her life with enthusiasm and interest in learning all things new. She loves her dogs and her family.

Cook Magazine

Cover of the June, 2015 issue of Cook Magazine, where my article was published
Cover of the June, 2015 issue of Cook Magazine, where my article was published | Source

Lining up for Kopi Luwak

When my daughter Kat was in Indonesia, she decided to try its famous kopi luwak, which some call “cat poop coffee.” It is the most expensive coffee in the world, ranging in cost from US$100 to $300 pound. Well, you only live once. And, she learned, you can be very disappointed many times over. This was one of those times.

Date of issue, June, 2015
Date of issue, June, 2015 | Source

It turns out, kopi luwak has been largely compromised. The quality of the bean lies in the fact that the civet cat lives in the wild, and instinctively chooses the most delicious berries. Its digestive system begins a process of fermentation where Protease enzymes enter the beans, peptides are shortened and amino acids are set free, resulting in the coffee’s wonderful aroma. The taste – if it is genuine – is penultimately delicious. Kopi luwak lost its fascinating quality when people began to capture civets, put them in cages and feed them any type of berry with no consideration of the berry’s quality.

This is why Barako Sibet re-imaged what some call “cat poop coffee” and went back to getting the real deal in order again, exclusively in the Philippines. Christopher S. Gonzaga of Crisley’s Barako Haus told me a fascinating story – that civet cats are indigenous to the Philippines. I must have been the only person in the country to know that, as this cat is shown on every P20 bill.

Page 1 of my article on Cooke Magazine
Page 1 of my article on Cooke Magazine | Source

My byline

Close up of my byline
Close up of my byline | Source

Endangered Species

However, it is an endangered species. According to Gonzaga, these cats prevail in several mountains. In Mt. Pulag and Mt. Sagada they feast on Arabica beans. In Mt. Bukidnon, Mt. Apo and the mountains of Sariayaya they eat robusta beans. But it is only in Mt. Malarayat in Lipa, Batangas, where the civets feast on the biggest coffee bean of all, the Liberica bean, otherwise known as barako.

The Barako Sibet is the least plentiful of all sibet (the Filipino way of spelling civet) coffees, yet Gonzaga makes it available in Barako Haus, located in Unit 102 Presidents Arcade, President’s Avenue, BF Homes, Paranaque. He rebranded the coffee Barako Sibet so it would not be affiliated with the errors that were made with kopi luwak. And it is only here in Paranaque where it’s affordable. The cheapest coffee is P88, while others cost up to P130. So if you want the five star version at people’s prices, go here. It’s exactly the same, Gonzaga said.

Page 2 of article

Page 2 of my article
Page 2 of my article | Source

500 Liberica Trees

The civet cat, as earlier stated, is an endangered species. In Mt. Malarayat, a government reserve, Gonzalga made a deal with farmers who worked in the area. He planted 500 Liberica trees which attracted the civet cats and where they feasted on the beans (barako is the largest coffee bean in the world).

He paid the farmers to do the work, provided them with food to sustain them until harvest time, and gave them money for medicine when they were ill. The trees contributed to the environmental wellness of the mountain, and the civet cats, most of all, run wild and free. However, because of the liberica trees they stay near the area, and their stool (yes, it is fondly called cat poop coffee to many) is usually found in the same areas, most likely due to this nocturnal animal’s natural sense of territorialism.

My bio

My bio
My bio | Source

High End Coffee

The cat poop is collected by farmers and placed on banana leaves. It goes through a sorting process in a large sifter where it is flattened, shook, and cleaned with water. Cat poop in the wild is very different in quality from that of caged civets – even the portion that is separated from the bean is far healthier. After the beans are cleaned, they are let out in the sun to dry. The dried beans are then scrubbed with a block of wood, and green beans are separated from the skin and sorted by hand.

Gonzaga sells his coffee (double shots) to high end places such as Maxim’s Resort World, Shangri-la Mactan, Shangri-la Boracay, Pico de Loro, Pasalubong centers in Tagaytay and Baguio, and International Airports at NAIA 3, Mactan International Airport, and Kalibo International Airport.

Carabao Cheese Sandwich

Carabao Cheese in Pan de Gante
Carabao Cheese in Pan de Gante | Source

Having Coffee the Traditional Filipino Way

But Barako Sibet coffee house embodies everything that Gonzaga and his partners, Al and Menchie Serrano, stand for. It is all about having coffee in the traditional Filipino way. You can have a delicious sunflower liberico frappapino (yes, pino) with a delicious carabao cheese sandwich served in pan de gante, which is actually a huge sized pan de sal. It is a delightful twist to something native to us, with the right dash of sophistication.

My husband truly loved his pan de tapa sandwich. I tried their flat top and chocnut cookie. I am the queen of cookies and you have to know I’ve eaten them all. But this one had a lovely smell that I mistook for cinnamon. Actually, it was sibet coffee that was added to this delicious cookie. I then noted chocolate notes midway, imagining the most high-end chocolate. Instead, it was chocnut. I guess when you add barako sibet to anything, the bar is raised very high.

Pan de Tapa Sandwich

Pan de Tapa Sandwich
Pan de Tapa Sandwich | Source

On the Floor

At Barako house there is a banig section which is very cozy. Who says only the Japanese can sit on the floor? Also, you can purchase items from all over the Philippines in this one place. There is organic puto bumbong, authentic bikol express in the barrel, bikol express pork, santol, delicacies from Amiras, and so much more. They are planning to create a large pan de burger as well.

You can purchase barako nuts, dayang at bawang ng tinapa, sinaing at tuliang, uraro, lengua, pulvoron ampalaya sugar free, dark chocolate coated pulveron with pinipig sugar free, and assorted pulovoron for sugar purists.

Banig Area

Banig Area
Banig Area | Source

A Cool Twist to Nationalism

Gonzaga says his nationalistic side is what drove him to bring all delicacies from the Philippines together under one roof with his delicious barako sibet at affordable prices, here in the south. But there’s a cool twist to it. You know the furniture is Pinoy, for example, but it’s Filipino modern. And the banig area with adorable bench tables do seem just a tad Japanese. The ASEAN, after all, forged special economic ties this year. It is a good time for us to show them that we’ve evolved from the good old days, preserved the best of it, upscaled it, and made it modern and sophisticated. Now they will know that’s what we’ve got, and we’re worth every bit of it and more.

Hail to the gang

Christopher Gonzaga (center, white shirt) with business partners Menchie and Al  to his left, and friends in media to his right.
Christopher Gonzaga (center, white shirt) with business partners Menchie and Al to his left, and friends in media to his right. | Source

Cat droppings a lucrative business in Philippines - 7 Dec 08

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    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 13 months ago from Philippines

      Dear Au Fait,

      I very much appreciate your insightful comments. Yes, people are crazy. But that's part of the fun of life. To tell you the truth, I also cannot see myself drinking coffee that came out of a cat's intestines. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and for your kind an thoughtful comments:)

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 13 months ago from North Texas

      Have heard of this coffee before and was not surprised that people lined up and paid outrageous money to drink it. Have been studying people for a long time and they seldom disappoint me in their habits and what passes for thoughts.

      I don't drink any kind of coffee, only because I just don't like it. Have tasted it, but always had to add so much cream and sugar that the coffee was barely discernible when I was done.

      Very informative. I always enjoy articles where I learn something!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 20 months ago from Philippines

      Thank you Mel Carriere, incidentally I LOVE Folger's. You've just given me the idea of getting myself some in the store tomorrow. I deserve it on Christmas. Anyway, glad to know that you would be willing to try cat poop coffee. You could tell your wife that there are versions in "tea bags" if the ick factor overwhelms. Best wishes for the holiday season and the forthcoming New Year:)

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 20 months ago from San Diego California

      Even cats are java junkies. I would love to try this cat poop coffee (I would never tell my wife where it came from or it would go straight in the trash, expensive or not), but unfortunately I'm sitting here on Christmas morning drinking my humble Folgers, waiting for the family to wake up. Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 20 months ago from Philippines

      Thank you Billy Buc, and a very merry Christmas and a happy new year to you as well:)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I always enjoy your articles as I always learn something new about a different culture. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 23 months ago from Philippines

      Hi Nell, I know it sounds creepy coming from the gut. But I tasted it, and it's really good. I felt lucky to get it at a much lower cost, as it's very, very expensive. When it comes to good coffee, I just smell it and I'm sold:).

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

      Hi, I remember watching on tv about the civet cat and coffee, its fascinating, but I don't think I would even want to try to drink something that had been through a gut, but that's me I think, typical English! lol! as you said, putting them in cages defeats the object and is cruel in the least, in the wild they produce better taste and the cat is free, as it should be, interesting stuff, nell

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Travmaj, I totally agree with you, the civet cats should never be caged. It's so cruel. Actually, what is used for the coffee is not the cat poop, but the seed of the berries. You see, the civet cats love the flesh of the berry seed, but they can't absorb the seed so it comes out whole. The juice in the digestive system contributes to the flavor of the berry. The reason people started to take it as coffee actually began with goats (talk about a circumferential story). Some herders noted that goats would eat berries from trees, then get really active. At that point, they tried it themselves, but I don't know if they tried the berry and smashed the seed or what. Anyway, that's how coffee was discovered, through animals:).

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Hi Mona, I can't say I approve of civets cats being caged to produce coffee - however, the cats running free and feeding off the best berries - can't really argue with that. I guess I'd sample it if the occasion happened but I'm not a coffee drinker. Amazing what lengths people go to to produce coffee, what next I wonder?

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      I agree with you 100 percent, Flourish Anyway. I wouldn't mind if it's kept as a pet, but not if it's caged for its poop. There should be laws about this, especially since the civet cat is an endangered species.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      No caged civets for me. So sad that people exploit animals this way (in order to drink coffee derived from their poop -- you couldn't make this stuff up!). People are so off the wall. Interesting hub, Mona!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Ms Dora, I just realized that Eric's comment is really funny. He sounded so serious I thought he meant what he said, hahahahah.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Eric's comment is funny, but I still can't laugh out loud. Still weighing this recycled coffee process in my head. I agree it's interesting.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Poetryman, sadly, there are incidents when civet cats are confined in small cages and not fed the best berries. As a result, the kopi luwak can be inferior. In the Philippines I've heard of similar cruelty, but the people take pains to feed them the best berries. I don't agree with that either. Civets are meant to live freely in their habitat. In this way, the coffee is excellent and there is no guilt associated with it. In fact, Filipinos who used to hunt civets for food now earn four times as much by collecting their poop. They used to think the poop coffee was for poor people only. Now they realize they have always had this jewel on hand.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Voted up because how could I not up vote a story about cat poop.

      I feared this might be a tale of woe that included the unfortunate invention of the automated cat squeezer to squeeze out that cat poop coffee more efficiently. Imagine my relief that this was no the case.

      Interesting article. I am sorry the poop, I mean the coffee did not turn out be as good as your daughter had hoped.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Larry Rankin, thank you for visiting. You should try barako sibet. I love it, even if it is cat poop coffee, and have had it several times since them.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Fascinating article. This information is all new to me.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Dressage Husband, I think you would like it very much. I certainly did:) and have gone back for more. Maybe it's one of nature's surprises that some of the best things in the world come from the most unexpected places, hahaha.

      Hello EricDierker, I am not surprised that you'd be willing to try Barako Sibet. You are quiet an adventurer so it would be another challenge and you would really love it:_

      ).

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 2 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Not sure I would appreciate coffee recycled via a cat! Nonetheless this Hub was interesting and well researched. Now I know what it is I may never try it! LOL

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very cool and interesting article. I can hardly wait to try some. This article reminds me that there is always a place and a niche for those willing to work to get at real authenticity. And that makes me glad.