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  • Marc Matsumoto's PBS Interview: Kopi Luwak

    French pressed Kopi Luwak, 2013


    If you’ve ever had a cup of Java, you know that Indonesia is famous for its coffee. A colloquialism that developed from its eponymous island in Indonesia, Java isn’t the only island in Indonesia where coffee is produced. In fact, the thousands of islands that form Indonesia make it the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world.


    Kopi cherries

    Amongst a growing group of coffee connoisseurs, there’s one type of coffee that Indonesia is particularly famous for. It’s the home of Kopi Luwak, or “civet coffee”. Infamous for its high price and unconventional production methods, locals have affectionately named it “cat-poo-ccino”. Cute, until you think about what the name actually means.

    Kopi Luwak has a history almost as long as coffee’s production in Indonesia. Formerly a Dutch colony, plantation owners forbade workers from picking coffee beans for their own use. I can only imagine that a mix of curiosity and desperation drove some adventurous soul to pick up the beans left behind in the droppings of the civet, wash them thoroughly, roast them, and brew them into the first cup of Kopi Luwak.

    Cleaned and husked coffee beans

    Word quickly spread of this new form of coffee, but due to the limited number of beans that could be harvested this way, the price quickly went up, making it a beverage that could only be enjoyed in Indonesia.

    Roasting coffee beans

    It wasn’t until relatively recently that Kopi Luwak started being exported in larger quantities, but increased demand from the West has led to other coffee producing countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines to produce their own versions. It’s even spurred a black market of knock-offs, which are treated with chemicals to mimic the effects of passing though the cat’s digestive tract.

    Back in Bali, I managed to subdue my gag reflex, and took a sip of the viscous brew. I was looking for a hint of feline funk or musk that would give away its provenance, but to be perfectly honest, there was nothing disagreeable to be found. Despite it’s thick consistency, this was the smoothest coffee I’ve ever consumed.

    The most notable difference is that it lacks the acrid bitter notes that coffee usually has; that’s why it can be brew so strong. We’re talking thick black sludge-at-the-bottom-of-your-cup strong. Normal coffee brewed this strong would be undrinkable, and yet this full-bodied brew was complex, nutty, and utterly smooth.

    Enzymes present in the civet’s digestive tract are absorbed by the beans, which in turn transform the proteins responsible for the coffee’s taste. After being defecated, the droppings are washed until clean, the yellow husks are removed, and the beans are lightly roasted.

    Marc Matsumoto is the food blogger behind Fresh Tastes

    Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.

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  • Comments on this post (1 comment)

    • Antonia Meeks says...

      I have had Kopi Luwak in Jakarta, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seattle and Sonoma (Cup of Luxury). I noticed an immediate difference in yours. I thought the shops in Asia had the finest, but when we visited the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma, California, we gladly spent the $299 for your private, in-room coffee catering. Thank you for giving us Cup of Luxury’s ultimate coffee experience. I will write a review for your Simply Decadent and Decouverte as well.

      On May 04, 2014

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