Friday, August 16, 2013

Civet cat, Bird poop and Bat: flavors of Coffee!!!


The aroma of the coffee itself can give you a feeling of warmth. Coffee lovers definitely enjoy the heavenly feeling while sipping the hot coffee in the chilling winter. Well.. there is a type of coffee with a fame of world’s expensive coffee. And that is Civet Cat Coffee or Kopi Luwak. “Kopi” is the Indonesian term for coffee. Luwak is a local name of the Asian Palm Civet in Sumatra. The retail price of this coffee is around US$800 per kilogram. Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Indonesian Archipelago Bali, East Timor.
            Civet Cat Coffee has its origins from Indonasia. The history reaches back to 18th century the Dutch Colonialism in Java, Sumatra where Dutch prohibited native farmers from picking up coffee beans for their own use. Natives have learned that certain species of Luwak (Asian Palm Civets) consumed coffee cherries but excreted undigested coffee beans. So natives, in a desire to have famed coffee, picked coffee beans from feces of Luwak , then cleaned, roasted it lightly ground and prepared their coffee. So the fame of this unique felt flavor of coffee spread from natives to Dutch and then all over the world.   
            Asian Palm Civets are mammals native to Southeast Asia. They resemble long-nosed cats.  There are two mechanisms that improve the flavor of civet cat coffee viz selection and digestion. Asian palm civets love fresh coffee cherries. Civets move at night, sniffing out sweet red coffee cherries and select the ripest and best cherries. Hence occurs the selection of best cherries adding to coffee flavor. Civets chew the exterior of cherries and then swallow the bean. In the digestive track of civet fermentation of beans occur.  The proteolytic enzymes act on beans adding the flavor and breakdown the enzymes responsible for bitterness. It results in unique, pleasant, smooth flavor of coffee. These beans are excreted by civets which are collected and cleaned in hygienic way by farmers and roasted lightly. Though the beans are in contact with faces and pathogenic organisms, they contain negligible amounts of the enteric (pathogenic) organisms associated with feces.
            Similar to Civet cat coffee there is bird poop coffee, prepared from the coffee seeds found in the feces of the South African Jacu Bird. There is a new brand emerging from Costa Rica called Bat Coffee. Here the bats feed on the coffee cherries. The bats breaks the skin of the ripen cherries with their teeth. Bats feed upon the cherry pulp and lick the sugar-rich mucilage. So the actual beans of coffee are left on the tree, exposed to the sun and dried in natural way. Then these beans are handpicked and processed. Vietnamese entrepreneurs said that they have chemically treated the regular beans and have produced coffee of  the same luwak taste.
            Sharp rise in the demand for this luxurious civet cat coffee has affected its quality of making. It has been reported that civets are isolated and kept in small cages in awful condition and forcibly fed inferior beans such as Robusta. There is ethical concern pointing out in the whole process of making expensive coffee. On the other hand there may be a threat to wild varieties of civets. So when the demand surpasses the production, quality may drop and someday the natural process of making the civet cat coffee may fade away.

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