As I’ve written about here and in The Big Book of Gross Stuff, the luwak is a civet (think of a cross between a weasel and a cat) that lives in Southeast Asia. And it 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!
So the luwak climbs coffee trees, eats the fruit, and then poops out the indigestible “beans”.
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.
Ms. Koerth-Baker says that her local coffee shop sells these beans for $420 a pound! Curious, she decided to have a cup of the stuff. Here’s what she found:
- There is a difference in flavor. Kopi Luwak is noticeably not bitter. Swallow a sip, and it's like you just drank some water. There's no sting or heavy flavor left in the back of your throat . . . . As my husband put it, "Everything that is wrong with cheap gas station coffee is right about this."
- That difference is totally not worth the price. Again, to quote my husband, "If . . . $420 a pound represented a much smaller amount of my time worked, I'd probably drink this. As it is, not worth it."
Illustration for The Big Book of Gross Stuff
by the ebullient Russ Miller.