Following on with the theme of coffee after my post about coffee on tap yesterday, have any of you coffee addicts out there ever tried "cat-butt coffee"? Otherwise known as "Kopi Luwak", it's the most expensive coffee in the world and takes its name from the fact that it's made from cat poop. No joke. Each manually harvested bean comes from the rear end of a small Indonesian breed of cat, the Asian Palm Civet.
The thought of ingesting something that has come from a cat's butt doesn't exactly appeal to me but clearly there's something in it that puts the flavor of Kopi Luwak coffee up there with the best.
The Asian Palm Civet is actually a viverrid that belong to the same suborder as cats but they don't look like your average house cat. They look more like this (they kind of remind me of ferrets - cat-like ferrets):
They're only found in the Asian or African tropics and like to eat the fruit from coffee plants. The animal is able to digest the fruit but not the coffee bean which passes through it whole and comes out the other end to be scooped up ready for coffee making. However along the way, enzymes in the civet's digestive system break down certain proteins in the coffee beans thus altering their flavor... for the better. These newly pooped out beans need to be cleaned and roasted and then they're ready for brewing.
I have never tasted Kopi Luwak coffee myself (and probably never will given the some US$400 price tag) but according to my research, there is a distinct difference in flavor. The fewer proteins make the coffee less bitter but still tasty.
According to Wikipedia, Kopi Luwak originated during the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, when Indonesians were banned from drinking any of the coffee they worked to grow and harvest. Instead, they gathered beans from civet poop and brewed that and started talking about it. Eventually, the Dutch colonists tried it for themselves and liked it so much that they took over the production of it. That's how Kopi Luwak became a luxury item. It's been expensive since the 19th century.
You do wonder whether those original Indonesian farmers were just trying get their own back on the Dutch by subjecting them to cat dung.
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