What kind of coffee costs up to $80 per cup?
Coffee beans that have been pooped out of the back end of a civet.
An Asian palm civet, to be exact. They are small cat-like mammals native to South and Southeast Asia. Apparently when the beans go through a civet’s digestive tract, they get partially fermented and lose their bitter edge.
Wandering around the Indonesian rainforest poking through civet poop is hard work, so people quickly started putting civets into tiny cages and force-feeding them coffee beans.
Worse yet, when you stuff a bunch of wild animals into a small, unsanitary space, you create the ideal conditions for the transmission of disease from animals to humans. SARS was believed to have come about this way. In 2004, approximately 10,000 civets in Guangdong, China were exterminated by Chinese authorities.
“It’s the fois gras of coffee.”
Camille Delebecque, a synthetic biologist, during a recent visit to WIRED.
Even if you don’t have ethical or psychological objections to imbibing anything that has come out of the back end of a small mammal, you should know that there is rampant fraud in the civet coffee (a.k.a. kopi luwak) industry. Producers of caged civet coffee beans regularly slap a “wild sourced” label on their product and there’s even a cheap brand called “Luwak” which sells for $2.95 per pound and is occasionally marketed as the real deal.
Happily, Eiichiro Fukisaki of Osaka University in Japan is working on a chemical test that can reliably detect the essence of civet in a cup of genuine Kopi Luwak. Click Here to learn more…
Perhaps even more encouraging, a group of young scientists are working hard to bring you civet-free civet-poop coffee by developing a fermentation process that mimics some of the changes that occur inside a civet’s digestive tract. Click Here to learn more…
So maybe one day you’ll be able to try imitation civet-poop coffee at your local Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for $1.97 a cup.