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Cash Crap: Civet Droppings Yield World's Most Expensive Coffee

Civet Droppings Coffee Kopi Luwak

First Posted: 06/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:10 PM ET

This weekend's New York Times tells the tale of the unlikely source for the world's most expensive coffee, kopi luwak, coveted by the rich and rarefied for years, and its unlikely provenance. The civet, a nocturnal, catlike mammal prevalent in Southeast Asia, poops gold. Sort of:

Reaching a valley where coffee trees were growing abundantly, [Goad Sibayan] scanned the undergrowth where he knew the animals would relax after picking the most delicious coffee cherries with their claws and feasting on them with their fangs. His eyes settled on a light, brownish clump atop a rock. He held it in his right palm and, gently slipping it into a little black pouch, whispered:


"Gold!"

Not quite. But Mr. Sibayan's prize was the equivalent in the world of rarefied coffees: dung containing the world's most expensive coffee beans.

Costing hundreds of dollars a pound, these beans are found in the droppings of the civet, a nocturnal, furry, long-tailed catlike animal that prowls Southeast Asia's coffee-growing lands for the tastiest, ripest coffee cherries. The civet eventually excretes the hard, indigestible innards of the fruit -- essentially, incipient coffee beans -- though only after they have been fermented in the animal's stomach acids and enzymes to produce a brew described as smooth, chocolaty and devoid of any bitter aftertaste.


The popularity and price of Civet-digested/fermented beans has fueled a veritable gold rush in the Phillipines and Indonesia, homes of the largest civet populations. Individuals looking to get in on the $100-600/lb. kopi luwak action comb the forest floors for bean-rich droppings and have set up miniature farms in which to streamline the whole...process.

The full piece at the New York Times is here.

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Filed by Colin Sterling  |