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Luwak Coffee Lover

So You Call Yourself a Coffee Lover? Try Luwak Coffee
The most famous coffee beans are still picked by hand - but the trip the beans take from cradle to grave is part urban legend and partly just plain weird. by Gary Picariello / February 19, 2009

[So You Call Yourself a Coffee Lover? Try Luwak Coffee]

Among the coffee elite, "this" is the Holy Grail. "This" being the rarest and reported-to- be-most-expensive-coffee in the world. You'd think the CIA was haggling over a spy exchange, that's how intense the business gets when it comes to this particular brand of java. Men have searched for it the world over: huddling in dark corners, whispering in the shadows. At times selling their souls. Prepared to pay to the highest bidder. But for what? There in lies the tale of Kopi Luwak coffee. Unlike anything you've ever tasted in the world of rare and imported coffee.

Our tale begins in the far off coffee plantations of Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, Indonesia. Here, the locals grow coffee as if their lives depended on it. And perhaps their lives really do. Work is hard to come by in these parts, and those fortunate enough to find work on the plantations picking coffee beans can rightly brag about really having accomplished something in their lives – even if they are making less than a minimum wage.

But not all of the region's renowned coffee crop grows on trees. The most famous coffee beans are still picked by hand - but the trip the beans take from cradle to grave is part urban legend and partly just plain weird. Want to make some big money? Time to track down a weasel-like critter known as the Palm Civet - also called the Luwak.

The Luwak is a coffee grower's nightmare: workers on the coffee plantation have a love-hate relationship with this little critter - which has expensive tastes - eating only the ripest coffee beans. Problem is, this long-time pest of Indonesian coffee plantations can't digest the coffee bean it so fervently seeks out. So the Luwak does what animals tend to do - after rolling the beans around in its mouth and maybe trying to chew on them for awhile, the Luwak swallows the bean and several hours later passes the undigested coffee bean in its waste. Luwak does this all day long.

Now the locals - who know the value of a coffee bean if ever there was one - patiently search out the Luwak’s bowel excretions and ever-so-gingerly extract the beans and lightly roast them. The effect of the Luwak's digestive track on the coffee beans is said to slightly ferment the coffee beans. In fact, giving the coffee beans a slightly nutty taste.

Call me crazy, but if I pull a coffee bean out of a turd and slightly roast it - for darn sure it's not going to taste "nutty". I'm thinking it's probably going to taste like sh*t. And even then, I don’t think I'll be drinking a cup.

But that goes to show how much I know. Because coffee beans "produced" by the Luwak are sought out and known for their "distinctly original-tasting roasted coffee blend" and one that is highly sought after by coffee gourmets the world over.

But the last laugh goes to laborer sweating away on the plantation. Prices for this coffee blend often run more than $250.00 dollars per pound. And the laborer benefits as well. And it's no wonder: it's not only time-consuming to search out the Luwak's animal waste, but also labor-intensive extracting the beans. And besides that, you smell like crap at the end of the day. For that kind of effort a person can be very well paid.

The Kopi Luwak blend is not something you can pick up on the streets. You won’t find it being offered as the "blend of the day" at your local coffee house. In fact, unless you're traveling in the upper reaches of Sumatra, finding this rare blend of coffee is nearly impossible. Every now and then Kopi Luwak coffee is offered online, and even then by "special request" only.
And now you know why the Kopi Luwak blend it is called the world's rarest coffee beverage.

And one that truly lives up to its name as being "good to the last drop"...