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Why Luwak Coffee is so special and how is it made?

The Asian Palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is responsible for the effects of this unique coffee. Related to the cat but belonging to the viverridae family, the same as the mongoose, it has a weasel-like face, cat-like body and long tail with fur which may be either gray or brown with various darker markings.

The Asian Palm civet of Indonesia is a musky grey-toned colour with darker stripes.

Beneath the tail of both sexes is a gland from which a fatty secretion is emitted to mark its territory. This substance is collected to be used as a perfume fixative, main supplies coming from the Indian civet (v. zibetha).

The omnivorous, tree-climbing civet cat prowls the coffee plantations at night picking and consuming the finest and best ripe coffee cherries. These pass through the civet and are collected in the droppings. Beans emerge without their fleshy coating, but entire and appear undigested. They are extracted by washing and carefully cleansed before being processed.

It had long been considered as a legend that the civet (Luwak) consumed the best coffee beans which then passed through their gut undigested, even entire with their cherry-like coating, the beans being washed and processed in the normal fashion to make this highly selected top grade coffee. Some thought that the actual situation was that the best beans were selected according to the type civets would eat, and these processed without having actually been eaten by the civet cats.

Recently a researcher, Marcone, working with the African civet (Civettictis civetta) and later with the Indonesian civets, has suggested the beans are slightly digested during their passage, to the extent that an enzyme process has broken down some of the proteins allowing them to leach out, resulting in a less bitter coffee. Speculation is that a lactic acid fermentation may be a factor, however any attempts at trying to mimic the process have so far failed.

In areas of Java and Bali where civet cats roam, the Kopi Luwak is made in villages from these Arabica coffee beans.  The raw and cleaned beans are placed in a large stone mortar (lesung), pounded with a large wooden pole  to loosen beans from their covering shells and then winnowed by hand in a flat basket like tray  to separate the beans. Beans are then carefully hand-picked to remove any that are damaged, roasted in special local ovens and ground as required.

Tastes of Indonesia Kopi Luwak is made from the best hand-selected whole Arabica beans.


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