April 20, 2010

Leave That Luwak's Poop Alone!

As I write about in The Big Book of Gross Stuff, the world’s most expensive coffee beans are found in poop. And that means someone has to pick the beans OUT of the dookie!

Here’s how it works: In Southeast Asia lives a civet (think of a cross between a weasel and a cat) that likes to eat the fruit of the coffee tree. You see, coffee trees actually grow fruit. As the fruit ripens, it looks sort of like a cherry. And the coffee “bean” is a pit INSIDE of the fruit!

Anyway, the civet (which is called a luwak) likes to climb coffee trees, eat the fruit, and then poop out the indigestible “beans”.
But as the coffee beans go through the animal’s digestive system, stomach acids give the bean a special flavor. And if you collect those beans AFTER they’ve been pooped, the coffee will supposedly be “smooth and chocolaty.”

Of course it’s chocolaty— it came from POOP!

Anyway, collecting civet poop is turning into big business in Indonesia and the Philippines. Those beans sell for over $200 a pound! And this is setting off debates. Should civets be caged and fed the coffee fruit?

I say NO! Wild civet poop is WAY better…plus, I feel bad for the animal pictured above. Can you imagine being put in a cage and then having your caretaker poke through your poop each day? (I get enough of that at home as it is!)
Photo and map from the New York Times.

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