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The Story of Kopi Luwak: Where Did It All Begin?

In the long years of coffee, none has received the amount of attention that the kopi luwak variety was. The beans are processed through the digestive tracts of Asian palm Civets, these beans were believed to be the most expensive in the world. Due to how scarce they are, how unique they are processed, and how extraordinary the flavor they are said to possess, this heavenly taste of the world of coffee is sought-after by a plethora of curious consumers for many years. The popularity of this coffee reached its peak in 2007, however, when the well-known American film The Bucket List hit the screen. The protagonist of the hit film — a brash billionaire named Edward Cole and played by the eccentric Jack Nicholson–jokes about drinking the most sought-after coffee in the world. The coffee obviously it’s the kopi luwak, a glistening cup of coffee.

The popularity wave that swept through the country has passed, yet those in the field of coffee are asked questions about these amazing beans. What do you think of this particular coffee? Do you think it is really distinctive? What makes it different from other coffees? Is kopi luwak worth a try? If they’re top-quality, any coffee beans available can provide you with an experience that is truly unique as you experience a journey filled with scents and flavors that haven’t been able to taste yet, and kopi luwak is certainly not an exception. If you’re intrigued, then embark on a journey into the world of the kopi luwak!

The story of Kopi Luwak: How Did it All Start?

According to legend, during the 18th century Dutch colonists living in Indonesia required the local farmers to give their coffee harvest to newcomers. If that weren’t enough they barred the poor Indonesians from collecting coffee berries for personal reasons. They were stripped of their favorite drink however, the smart locals quickly discovered a solution. While looking at palm civets – small indigenous animals that are called luwak the locals–one day, farmers observed that they love munching on coffee berries just as they enjoy eating tropical fruits and other insects. After consumption, the coffee berries were removed from their pulp inside their digestive system of the palm civet and the seeds, also known as coffee beans, that were left behind were disposed of together with the Faecal matter. The locals eventually took a gamble and began collecting then washing, drying, and roasting the beans. Imagine their delight when they discovered that this coffee was more delicious than the standard one! The resultant brew was more subtle and less bitter, characterized by a pleasant aftertaste. Rumours of this unique drink quickly spread to Dutch colonists, too. It took a short time for the kopi luwak drink to be a source of exotic appeal all over the globe.

Kopi Luwak Goes Hollywood

We’ve already discussed The Bucket List (2007) which was a film majorly responsible for many westerners re-discovering kopi luwak in the beginning in the 20th century. Let’s look at its impact further will we?

It tells tale of two retired people who are terminally sick: Edward Cole, a billionaire from the corporate world who is played by Jack Nicholson, and an ordinary mechanic from the working class Carter Chambers played by Morgan Freeman. Although they appear to have nothing to do, the two characters are reunited within the same room in a hospital. Carter is ruminating about the limited time he’s left, and decides to write an outline of all the adventures he’d love to enjoy while alive. When Edward learns of the list, he offers Carter an offer the mechanic cannot refuse to leave the hospital, embark on a thrilling journey, and help make his wishes come true.

Within one of the opening scenes in the film we can see Edward Cole pouring himself a cup of kopi luwak proclaiming it is “the most rare beverage on the planet”. The affluent connoisseur also carries the bag with an espresso syphon every time he travels: this means he is able to taste amazing flavors anytime, anyplace. Edward doesn’t know the origins of his drink from, however. The origin story of kopi Luwak is eventually revealed to him by Carter:

Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee, but for some, it’s in one of the categories that are “too great to be real”. It is in the Sumatran village in which they grow their beans there is a the wild cat. The cats eat the beans and digest them, afterwards… excrete. The villagers sort and treat the stools. It is the mix of the beans and gastric juices from the cat in the tree that give the kopi luwak its distinctive flavour and scent.

When they hear this, the two friends are hysterical and laughing. Carter takes a breath to check off one item on his bucket-list. It says “Laugh until I cry.

With such a stunning scene it’s not surprising that kopi Luwak became a part of the bucket lists of many people from all over the world. In awe of the charismatic Nicholson and intrigued by his unique story of its origin, coffee enthusiasts from all over the Western world were looking forward to embarking to exciting adventure of their very own.

The Flavor of Kopi Luwak Coffee

Each of these stories might make you think about a simple question whether this coffee is truly unique? Perhaps its fame is just marketing gimmick, inspired by a hilarious scene in the screen of a Hollywood film? Are these beans different from other varieties of coffee? Can authentic kopi luwak be identified just by its taste?

In the year 2004, Massimo Marcone, a food scientist within the University of Guelph (Canada) was the focus of his research. The goal was to determine whether this particular coffee really differed from other varieties to any degree. Examining kopi luwak using the naked eye didn’t show any notable distinctions however, so Marcone took a step further by using an extremely powerful microscope. Then he saw tiny cracks in the beans. The regular varieties weren’t even cracked This was something else.

After a thorough investigation after which the scientist realized that the cracks are due to enzymes inside the stomachs of palm Civets. The enzymes penetrated the outer shell of the bean, causing proteins to breakdown. Since these beans stayed for around 24-hours in the stomach of an octopus they started to germinate. Overall it is described as having a unique type of malting, that’s why we wouldn’t be too far off from if we were to refer to kopi luwak as the “malted coffee”.

Protein content present in the coffee is exactly the level of bitterness it depends on: the higher amount of proteins present in the beans the more bitter the taste of the beverage is. Intense protein decomposition lends kopi luwak its delicate flavour. Other tests, including electronic odour analysis have revealed that the smells and tastes observed in these beans differ from the characteristics found in coffees that haven’t had its processing done by Asian palm Civets.

There’s a crucial distinction to be aware of when discussing the term “kopi Luwak” refers to a particular process, not the specific bean variety. The flavor of the kopi luwak is determined by various other conditions it experiences throughout the process, such as the type of coffee used (arabica and robusta) as well as the conditions for harvesting as well as the selections of the roaster… The whole of which means that varieties of kopi luwaks are identified by various characteristics. However, the rule of thumb here is straightforward: the higher the grade of the beans and the more meticulous, professional the process is, the more exceptional the resultant beverage.

Are you unsure if this kind of coffee is completely healthy to drink? Studies conducted by Massimo Marcone has proved that it is. Through careful clean-up and roasting all unwanted remnants are removed from beans, and the most desirable properties are effectively retained and enhanced.

What’s kopi Luwak’s flavor as you ask? It’s rich, intense and especially thick, characterized by the scent of nuts and chocolate. It’s got a hint of toasted caramel. After you’ve finished drinking it, a delicious long-lasting, lasting aftertaste remains on your tongue for quite a long time. It sounds appealing, doesn’t it?