The most expensive coffee in the world (or one of them, anyway) is cat poop coffee. What is cat poop coffee? The name is a little bit misleading, since the ingredients really don't come from cats. It actually comes from a cat-like mammal called a civet. But as far as calling it poop coffee - that's exactly what it is.
Also known as kopi luwak, or civet cat coffee, this Indonesian delicacy is made when wild civets eat coffee cherries, and humans harvest the beans that remain in their droppings. While this drink might sound like one of the grossest foods in the world, civet coffee is actually pretty popular. It might be because of the alleged health benefits and it might be because people like the taste. Or it might just be that drinking cat poop coffee makes for a great story to tell your friends. There's a lot to learn about this bizarre treat, so get yourself a cup of coffee of your choosing (probably something that didn't come out of a civet), relax, and read on.
It's Actual Civet Poop - Not Cat Poop
While it's called cat poop coffee colloquially, this has nothing to do with cats. The coffee actually comes from civet poop. Civets are small, nocturnal animals native to tropical areas in Asia and Africa. This little guy kind of looks like a cat, but is actually a member of the Viverridae family, which also includes genets.
Civets issue a very particular scent, one people have used as perfumes, and are carnivores. They very territorial and don't socialize much outside of their small family groups.
The Way That It's Produced May Be Unethical
Most companies that produce kopi luwak claim the beans are harvested from the droppings of wild civets. That's the selling point - it's billed as authentic, rare experience worthy of its hefty price tag. Unfortunately, according to the BBC, this doesn't seem to always be the case. Undercover reporters from the news network visited to a farm in Sumatra, Indonesia, and found small, filthy cages with civets trapped inside. Some of the animals were physically injured, and none of them appeared happy or well cared for.
When the BBC visited the firm of a major producer of kopi luwak, Sari Makmur, they were told no civets were present on the estate, and the civet breeding program previously in place had ended in 2007. An anonymous worker claimed this was not true, and that civets were kept at the estate, though in better conditions than the aforementioned farm. When confronted with these claims, the company stated it did indeed keep civets, but they were used for research purposes. They said all of the kopi luwak they sold was made from the droppings of wild civets.
All that said, because it's clearly industrialized to some degree, kopi luwak might not be as rare as it seems. Combine that with the possibility of animal cruelty, and you might want to think twice before dropping big bucks on a few ounces of novelty coffee.
So, How Is It Made?
Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, refers to coffee made from coffee beans harvested from civet feces. The civets are fed coffee cherries, which they then poop out.
Civet coffee begins at selection. Civets choose which coffee cherries are worth eating, and their stomachs don't steer them wrong. They tend to pick the best fruits available. Once they eat them, the civet's stomach uses protease enzymes to strip the skin from the cherries and reveal the bean underneath. The civet's intestines make the bean less acidic because they create shorter peptides and free amino acids in the beans. This improves the taste, making the coffee less bitter. After the beans are collected, they are washed, roasted, and prepared for sale.
While the beans were traditionally collected from wild civets, intensive farming methods are now more common.
Who Is Drinking This Stuff?
When it was first invented, civet coffee was exclusive to Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, areas to which the civet is native. In the 18th century, Dutch colonists in these areas prohibited native farmers and plantation workers from picking coffee fruit for their own use. To get around this, workers started picking the undigested beans out of civet dung, cleaning them, and roasting them for their own use. Dutch plantation owners quickly decided they just loved the stuff, and it started to sell at high prices.As tourism to these areas increased, the coffee exploded in popularity, and people from all over the world started drinking it. Nowadays, it's possible for anyone who wants to try the drink to do so. While you won't necessarily find the stuff in your local coffee shop, you can order it from Amazon.