What is the Most Expensive Coffee in the World?

Coffee, Coffee Beans, Cafe, Roasted

For the past several decades a decadent coffee treat from Indonesia, called Kopi Luwak has been the rarest and therefore answers the question:  What is the most expensive coffee in the world?

Luwak Coffee

“luwak coffee” by inna dee, flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The uniqueness of Kopi Luwak can be determined even before tasting it. During brewing it smells smoky, not like burned beans but mellow like a camp fire. Then when tasted, that smokiness translates into a nutty, rich and earthy flavor unlike any other kind of coffee.

The experience of drinking authentic Kopi Luwak is such a luxury that some brilliant company (Harrods) put it in a pouch lined with 24 karat gold and that sells for upward of ten thousand dollars.

For the person who has it all, this is truly a gift fit to give a king…or bored, eccentric millionaire.

What is Kopi Luwak?

The uniqueness of Kopi Luwak is in how it is harvested.

The beans are collected from the excrement of wild animals called civets. Yes, you heard me right. The prized coffee beans are found in poo.

Masked Palm Civet

“Masked Palm Civet” by Tony Hara, flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It is then washed, roasted and served in the same fashion as other coffees.

Civets are catlike, nocturnal creatures that are native to Indonesia, Asia and Africa.

Common Palm Civets have a penchant for snacking on coffee cherries and can be found lurking around the coffee plantations where their favorite snacks grow.

During the Dutch occupation of Indonesia, workers were forbidden to use the coffee beans on the plantation for their own use.

This prompted the ingenious idea of foraging the bean laden feces of the civets.

After carefully washing the beans, the plantation workers had a brew of number two which their oppressors didn’t mind them pilfering and would later come to be the most sought after coffee in history.

What Makes the Most Expensive Coffee so Good?

Bali 003 - Ubud - Famous Lukaw Coffee

“Bali 003 – Ubud – famous lukaw coffee” by McKay Savage, flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Make no mistake; people who taste Kopi Luwak say that it really is better than other coffees.

Part of the reason is that when the common palm civets are roaming the coffee trees, they choose the ripest and best coffee cherries to snack on and what goes in inevitably comes out again in little turd shaped treasures.

Civets cannot fully digest the coffee beans but the beans do undergo a transformation in the digestive tract. After taking a long leisurely ride down the digestive tract of the Common Palm Civet, the beans are darker in appearance and more brittle than their undigested peers.

While in the digestive tract, the beans are transformed by the stomach acid and fermentation. The proteins are broken down so Kopi Luwak has less protein than undigested beans, which gives it a smoother, less bitter flavor.

The Civet Scam

Kopi Luwak is a naturally limited curiosity. No Matter how many native people you put in the fields, carrying little pouches and collecting civet crap, you cannot meet the growing demand for the product.

This fact moved things in a natural progression and the time honored tradition of scamming the foolish.

Packaging may lead you to believe that the dark ground gold inside the foil was wild crafted by colorful natives by foraging in the fields, but the truth is far from that romantic notion.

Today, the Kopi Luwak you purchase online is more likely harvested from captive civets that live in appalling conditions and many are not even the right kind of civet. Only the common palm civet eats coffee cherries regularly.

Common palm civets are omnivores and need a varied diet to stay healthy. Many other civets are carnivores and would not eat coffee cherries in the wild, so while the strict diet of solely coffee cherries may increase production; it seriously affects the health of the animals. Today’s Kopi Luwak is an animal rights nightmare.

Spot the Fake

Common Palm Civet (toddy cat)

“Common palm civet (toddy cat)” by Marie Hale, flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Still, if you are interested in trying Kopi Luwak, there are other scams to consider, like is this really even civet poo that I am drinking?

Don’t worry, there’s an app for that… OK, not an app, but a nice scientific test.

Scientists have identified the unique chemical makeup of a civet gut digested coffee bean.

Yes, in the face of cancer and plagues ravaging the world, scientists have taken the time to develop a test to make sure that you are drinking authentic Civet doo-doo.

Civet Poop Alternatives

If, on the other hand, it’s the experience of drinking a crappy cup of coffee that you seek, you can do so without worry that you are perpetuating the ill treatment of the civet. Other varieties of pooped coffee beans are making an entrance to the coffee scene.

One alternative to civet poop is the droppings of the incredibly rare uchunari. The uchunari is a long nosed native to the Peruvian Andes whose size and digestive abilities are comparable to that of the common palm civet.

This digestive talent isn’t limited to small rare animals, the newest candidate for the most offensive…err…expensive coffee is scavenged from elephant dung.

The great beasts that are responsible for this new culinary experience live on an Elephant sanctuary deep in the jungles of Thailand and as the mastermind behind the idea, Blake Dinkin, puts it “We operate in a transparent manner.

Vets are here to inspect the elephants are well taken care of. I’ve worked with food scientists, wildlife experts, picked the best sanctuary. It’s all on my own money.”

The Price tag may be staggering at $50 for a cup, but the price reflects the care and treatment of these pachyderms as they lumber away digesting and fermenting the culinary coffee curiosity.

It’s apparent that predigested coffee bean menu is only going to grow but civets may find that they can finally rest a little.

There is now an ever widening variety of living fermentation vessels giving their best efforts as baristas to create a very unique crap-accino to compete forthwith quest for what is the most expensive coffee in the world.

  2 Responses to “What is the Most Expensive Coffee in the World?”

  1. Who in the world were the first people to say “yeah, let’s brew that civit poop”!



    • Alisha,

      When I first saw this, I had the same reaction. But, somehow this type of coffee stays popular.

      So, it must not taste or smell like you would think it would or people wouldn’t keep buying it.


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