Kopi Luwak

My favourite movie is “The Bucket List” starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Soon both will die, so Jack, who is rich, talks Morgan into flying around the world with him to do wild things, like sky diving, before passing from this world to the next.

Jack is a coffee aficionado. Everywhere they go his assistant, who accompanies them on their journey, finds local coffees and prepares them each morning to serve on an elaborate gold-embossed tray.

Back from their wild escapade at the end of the movie, Morgan is in the hospital dying, He tells Jack about a new discovery – Kopi Luwak from Indonesia. He reveals with great amusement how Kopi Luwak is produced. It is eaten and defecated by a jungle cat.
“You’re shittin’me!” Jack says, and they explode with laughter.

I have seen The Bucket List many times. Until recently I thought that scene to be a clever piece of movie script to show camaraderie between two friends.

But the coffee story is true. Kopi Luwak farmers gather up the droppings of civet cats, which eat coffee cherries, digest them, then egest them in their feces. Kopi Luwak is coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the cats..

Producers argue that the process improves the taste of coffee.

Not everyone agrees.

Although Kopi Luwak is a form of processing rather than a variety of coffee, it is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, with retail prices reaching $700 per kilogram. The price of inferior farmed Kopi Luwak in large Indonesian supermarkets is $100 and up per kilogram, five times the price of a high quality arabica coffee.

Kopi Luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali in the Indonesian Archipelago. It is also widely gathered in the forest or produced on farms in the Phillipines.

Few objective assessments of taste are available. Kopi Luwak is a name for any beans collected from the excrement of civets, hence the taste may vary with the type and origin of beans ingested, processing subsequent to collection, roasting, aging and brewing.

In the coffee industry, Kopi Luwak is widely regarded as a gimmick or novelty.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) states that there is a general consensus within the industry:

“It just tastes bad”.

A coffee professional concluded: “It is apparent that Luwak coffee is sold for the story, not superior quality.”

A food writer for the Washington Post reviewed Kopi Luwak available to US consumers and concluded:

“It tasted stale and lifeless, like petrified dinosaur droppings steeped in bathtub water. I couldn’t finish it.”

Kopi Luwak coffee makes an appearance in the History Channel’s reality TV series, Pawn Stars (July 18, 2013), with several characters refusing to drink it after learning how it is made.

In Season 3 of Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry and his guest, Jay Leno, both partake in a $75 cup of “cat shit coffee.” Leno says it is awful. Jerry drinks his own and later finishes Leno’s, at which point Leno orders a Coke.

That Bucket List scene says it all for older guys like me who are ready to die, but want a few laughs before kicking the bucket.

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