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I'm actually on the hunt for this coffee in Melbourne, being it's such a coffee-oriented city: Where can I buy a cup of 'cat poo' coffee (Kopi Luwak) in Melbourne?, but while discussing it in the travel.SE chat room, we were wondering what it is that makes it worth drinking?

From Wiki and other sources there's some talk about cherries with some beans cause certain enzymes to be produced, but they seem to insist that this wouldn't happen with the same ingredients in another beast? So is it the beans + food, or the animal itself, and what is the resultant flavour - more bitter / sweet than regular coffee, or what?

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Bragging rights. –  Pete Becker Jun 24 '13 at 15:20
    
a recent article on the topic : narrative.ly/caffeinated-city/from-the-bowels-of-a-beast –  Joe Jun 28 '13 at 13:57
    
"coffee-oriented city" - is that its reputation within Australia? (From outside) hadn't heard that before. –  hunter2 Jul 1 '13 at 9:33
    
@hunter2 it competes well with Vancouver, except instead of Starbucks, it's more like Vienna with all the local little coffee shops. And less burnt coffee than Vancouver. Aus/NZ make great coffee (from beans from elsewhere) –  Mark Mayo Jul 1 '13 at 10:12
    
Note also that kopi-luwak nearly always results from animal abuse these days (guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/19/…). Originally the natural droppings of civets were sorted through. Now, many companies cashing in on the fad are keeping the poor things captive, feeding them nothing but coffee cherries (nutritionally deficient), and in general treating them horribly. And despite the modern factory farming methods, we aren't seeing a lower price tag to even venture a justification towards the treatment of the animals. –  Matthew Jul 24 '13 at 15:04
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3 Answers 3

I've never drunk it (can't stand coffee myself), but the general theory is:

  1. A wet ferment. Some coffee producers have attempted to duplicate some of the processes with enzymes, as you've mentioned.
  2. More likely to be picked closer to peak ripeness. The animals have the advantage that they're picking berries to eat, and will pass over unripe ones to eat later -- unlike human processing which might just look to strip the whole bush.

In talking to one of my co-workers (also not a coffee drinker), and she said that she's had coffee right after it's been processed, and it was dramatically different from the stuff that was available in Europe or North America ... which leads me think that freshness might be a more important quality than some of the other aspects of the highly expensive coffee. (unless you're talking about psychological effects)

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You mean that your co-worker tried this specific coffee fresh, right? Eg, that she was in Indonesia (or Vietnam, I guess), near a farm/facility. (I ask) Because normal coffee is certainly best right after processing, but is of course widely available in much of EU and NA. –  hunter2 Jun 25 '13 at 9:42
    
@hunter2: fresh, but not this particular type. And I know she's a tea person typically, so I don't know how much fresh roasted coffee in the US. (she said that she'd drink coffee if it was a good as the stuff she had in .... somewhere in asia, can't remember where she was exactly) –  Joe Jun 25 '13 at 12:51
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The second point unfortunately doesn't apply to intensively farmed kopi luwak, where the coffee is simply fed to civets in captivity. (And of course, this is all assuming it's not counterfeit... the Wikipedia article is a bit of a depressing read.) –  Jefromi Jun 25 '13 at 16:33
    
prices mentioned on wikipedia seem high. Saw it for sale at the airport of Jakarta, Indonesia for about $75-$100 per pound (and that's at inflated airport prices, can probably get it cheaper in the country, especially outside the major cities, but didn't look, am no coffee drinker either). –  jwenting Jun 26 '13 at 5:51
    
@hunter2 : a recent article on civet coffee mentions that they roasting at higher altitudes might be a difference ... so it might not just be a matter of freshness. –  Joe Jun 28 '13 at 13:56
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As someone who has had the coffee, the main feature is that the coffee is far less bitter. As mentioned, when the beans are digested whole they go through a sort of fermentation while in the digestion tract. The Vietnamese coffee brand, Trung Nguyen, claims to have duplicated this process chemically, without the use of civets. I am not a super connoisseur of coffee but I would say to try that before you decide to dedicate some serious money towards it and see if it's worth it to you.

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Suffering

'Nothing'.

Personally, I wasn't really attracted by the description, but when I was offered some (on somebody else's dishes, and the alternative was instant), I gave it a try. My vote is squarely in the 'cachet' pile - that it's just something exotic and expensive for its own sake, or a 'placebo' kind of situation. The stuff I had was fine, but really didn't taste special. Would not pay extra for it.

But that's just IM-NS-HO. I realize this is a subjective answer, but if you've already read up about it a bit ... the Wikipedia page lists the supposed pros and cons, so you're here mostly for opinions, right? Or something beyond what's listed on Wiki?


Edit: Removed 'joke answer', because SE is no place for jokes. Also, it may have been offensive ... and not that funny.


Edit: Oh yeah - as for specific characteristics, my impression was that it was low in acidity, and a little 'thin'. At the time, I assumed that the latter was my fault / bad preparation - although I used the same method and apparatus for other coffees with good result, and tried a few times with the Luwak (or 'Luwak', as it may be)(trying to brew it a little stronger, etc). I believe both are characteristics noted elsewhere (eg, Wiki).

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This answer would be a little easier to take seriously if you'd written it in a less sensationalist way. Some parts of it are probably true (and are indeed in the Wikipedia article); there's no need to go on to make things up and insult the OP. –  Jefromi Jun 25 '13 at 14:49
    
Yeah, I was being silly. The part from "Seriously" is a real answer, though. So, OK, I'll edit. I wasn't trying to insult the OP, sorry if it came off that way. –  hunter2 Jun 26 '13 at 2:53
    
@Joe, seems I can't comment on your answer anymore. If I'm understanding you right, though, it sounds like your coworkers experience isn't especially relevant. There could be a lot of reasons to explain her preference - type of bean, roast level, grind, freshness since roast & grind (as opposed to harvest), preparation method, etc. If "somewhere in asia" means 'Vietnamese-style' coffee .. well, search for it - it's good and you can probably find some near you (and it would be different enough to appeal to a non-coffee person, although not strictly about freshness). –  hunter2 Jun 26 '13 at 3:23
    
and given the high percentage of "fake" kopi luak for sale worldwide, how can you be sure you got the real stuff? –  jwenting Jun 26 '13 at 5:52
    
Short answer: I can't. Slightly longer: How certain can you ever be about this kind of thing? Unless you personally oversee the process, you trust people. In this case, I was given a whole package (by someone who isn't a coffee drinker, who had in turn received it as a gift), so I had the label and such. I searched and found the manufacturer's site. The package I had looks like the one on the mfg's page, and they look like a fairly professional operation (I think I searched a little further on the company name). Far from 'proof', but I'd call it fairly plausible. –  hunter2 Jun 26 '13 at 7:13
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