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The cat coffee craze

Kopi Luwak is “the latest news” on the coffee scene. The word “kopi” means “coffee”. And the word “luwak”? Therein lies a fascinating story.

Imagine the jungles of Indonesia. Night has fallen. A hungry animal is on the prowl. This is the palm civet or luwak, said to be a distant relative of the mongoose with the habits of a raccoon. The luwak enjoys a diet of bananas, mangoes, melons, palm juice with a hint of insects. But ripe, red cherries, housing green beans wrapped in a parchment-like membrane, are of particular interest. The luwak feasts on the berries. Droppings post feasting are always deposited in the same area, a preferred toilet territory.

But that is not the end of the production line. The droppings are collected by man. The parchment membrane is shelled, the bean is washed, roasted and marketed as the latest, exotic coffee experience. Voila Kopi luwak!

Each year, only about 500 pounds of Kopi luwak are available. This is not a sustainable crop. Harvest must be spontaneous, before rains evaporate the treasures. Apart from Indonesia, only Ethiopia looms as a possible rival on the world market. Yet, Kopi luwak appears to be desirable to Japan, who buys the bulk of the harvest, and to Americans who are being tempted by Starbucks and online coffee houses to “dare to try”!

But the “dare to try” will cost! For the price of about $5.00 a cup, you risk a sense of stomach upheaval! Even thoughts of a smooth, maybe syrupy, musky, rich chocolate or caramel taste cannot quite erase thoughts of where it all came from.

Is this a good time to reassure you that Kopi luwak is not so unique? In Morocco, excrement is gathered from tree climbing goats who eat the olive-like fruits of the argan tree. The pits of the fruit are removed from the excrement and used for massage oil and cooking oil. Feeling better? Braver?

There is nothing like the aroma of a good coffee. The aroma of Kopi luwak? Few Kopi luwak websites seem to provide information on this detail. The most enlightening is www.coffeehabitat.com who declare:

“This coffee smells like used auto parts.”
Perhaps this coffee has specialized appeal for “petrol heads”?

Secretly, you may feel the cost of this coffee is the real deterrent. After all, to pay up to $100 for a bag of this exclusive, gourmet coffee may mean pruning half your grocery supplies for the week. But there is an alternative for the budget conscious. I believe Weasel coffee from Vietnam is quite similar and quite good! It is half the price!