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Kopi Luwak -- coffee made exotic by Civets

Kopi Luwak, a coffee variant believed to be of Indonesian origin, has gained popularity all over the world over the last few years. The reason for its popularity is attributed to the factors such as flavour and texture which is achieved through a unique process—digestion of the coffee beans by Asian palm civet.

Asian palm civets consume coffee berries as one of their primary food sources. The undigested coffee berries are collected and processed to prepare the most exotic coffee in the world. It is also one of the expensive coffees in the world. Scientifically, it is said that the process involves two steps. First is selection, where the civets choose the best berries for their fleshy pulp. The second is digestion, where the consumed berries are acted upon by the digestive enzymes, a process that is believed to enhance the coffee’s flavour.

What started as wild sourcing of undigested berries has now turned into a regularised system of cultivation. There have been several attempts to replicate the digestive process of civets in the lab to upscale the production of Kopi Luwak. In countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, industrialists have succeeded in creating variants of this expensive coffee. Although on the one side it is praised for its flavour and texture, some argue that the coffee is sold for its rarity and not particularly for its taste. The fascination for Kopi Luwak is not only found among coffee lovers but interestingly finds its way into many Hollywood movies as well.

The dark side of this need for mass production of the favourite beverage is that frequently, civets are caged and force-fed coffee beans to ensure production. It causes undue stress to the shy nocturnal animal. Although it is illegal to capture the civets in most countries in its range, there is thriving cruelty in the name of the most exotic coffee. Unless there is a real 'cruelty-free' way to procure this expensive beverage, perhaps, it would be a good idea to give up this speciality coffee.