One evening while walking through the coffee plantation at Evolve Back, Coorg I came across something unusual – civet droppings with undigested coffee beans! Kopi Luwak in Evolve Back, Coorg! While coffee aficionados the world over are familiar with the world’s most exotic and expensive coffee – Kopi Luwak also known as Civet Coffee – the lay person, though a coffee drinker, may not be aware of this particular type of coffee.
Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee is a coffee that is produced from part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by an animal called the Asian palm civet. Yes, you read that right – ‘part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated’! Don’t let that put you off – it is the most sought-after coffee in the world and for good reason.
The origins of Kopi Luwak make for a good story. Apparently when the Dutch introduced coffee cultivation in Indonesia they were extremely possessive of the crop and prohibited the native Indonesians from picking coffee fruits for their own use. However, the people had already acquired a taste for the brew and found a novel method of getting around the ban. They realized that the Asian Palm Civet consumed ripe coffee berries and passed the seeds undigested in their droppings. The people gathered these seeds from the droppings and used them to make their coffee!
Soon the Dutch plantation owners came to know of it and acquired a taste for this coffee. It soon became their favorite, however due to its unusual process and rarity it was difficult to get and was expensive even during those days.
What makes this coffee unique is the way the civet goes about its business. For starters it is a very fastidious eater and only feeds on the berries that have reached the correct stage of ripeness – contrast this with the strip method way of harvesting coffee where all beans – in various stages of ripeness – are harvested.
Civets eat coffee berries for their pulp and not for the berries per se. Once the bean is ingested, the civet’s digestive system takes over. Its stomach acids and enzymes digest the beans’ covering and ferment the beans resulting in reduced bitterness and changes in flavour. The undigested coffee bean is then expelled still covered with some of the berry’s inner layers. These inner layers or ‘cherry’ prevents the beans from being contaminated by the feces.
The beans are then washed and dried in the sun. The dried beans are then pounded by hand, this does not damage the bean but the ‘cherry’ or skin breaks apart allowing for it to be removed easily. Once removed, the beans are sorted and are ready for roasting. The worlds most expensive coffee is now ready to be brewed.
The next time you find yourself walking among the coffee in Coorg do keep an eye on the ground for you might just stumble upon the proverbial pot of gold.