The weasel that lays the golden poop

By on September 1, 2014

50 grams of Kopi Luwak(Weasel coffee) Arabica beans sell for as much as 3,300 yen online. Surprised?


The gourmet coffee hankered after by a number of gourmands all over the world is literally a recycled poop of civet, the lithe-bodied animal found in Sumatra, Indonesia, that can easily be mistaken for an arboreal weasel. These civets live in other tropical countries like  Vietnam, the Philippines including some African countries.


These nocturnal cats go out in the wild and run to the arbour of coffee plantation picking the ripest, tastiest cherries which is exactly what a good coffee farmer does. These wild animals know what’s delicious. They have taste buds just as discriminating as humans’. When I went to Ubud this summer, I saw with my own eyes how these little creatures snack on what’s soft and sweet,  discarding what’s not, that somehow explains why Kopi Luwak beans give out a full bodied fruity taste. So essentially, these animals do the work of the coffee farmers for the latters’ profit.

Indonesians Farm Civet Cats To Produce World's Most Valuable CoffeeCivets emit proteolytic-enzymes absorbed by the berry seeds inside the body, a fermentation process that’s key to the highly coveted Kopi Luwak quality. When the guts are full, poop goes the weasel!  They poop out massive clusters of berry seeds (including whatever else comes out of the poop!). They’re washed, sun-dried, roasted and sold in the market as Kopi Luwak beans.

In the US mainstream market alone, a pound is sold anywhere between $100.00 – $600.00.  Street markets in Vietnam for example sell the same quantity to tourists for merely $4-5 dollars (marked “weasel coffee”).  Vietnam Coffee Luwak














So what makes it truly expensive is the marketing done by  vendors in profit-oriented countries with a coffee drinking culture like Japan.

Screen shot 2014-09-01 at 3.39.15 PMMamekohboh Coffee shop (豆香房), one of the very few specialty stores in Tokyo selling Kopi Luwak beans sells a 50-gram pack for 2,000 yen and even if you drink it there, it would cost you just about the same for a small size cup of coffee.

Do all Kopi Luwaks taste the same? Apparently not. Since the rise in number of coffee evangelists, the demand has reached fever pitch, causing farmers to resort to caging and force-feeding civets.  Due to poor diet, the flavour of beans suffers yet, many of these are sold in the market as genuine Kopi Luwak.

So how can we tell if Kopi Luwak is genuine? Last year, Eiichiro Fukusaki, a Japanese scientist co-authored the “metabolic fingerprint” study that will put beans to a test using metabolomics technology.  Not before long, we will be seeing more of these products labeled and graded properly weeding unscrupulous vendors out.

More of a process than a product, Kopi Luwak is best taken as an experience.

Indonesia remains to be the world’s largest producer of Kopi Luwak producing half a ton each year.

About Alex Fagnani