Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The first time I heard about kopi luwak I checked the date. Was it April Fool’s Day, perhaps?

After all, who, seriously would consider drinking coffee that has passed through an animal’s digestive tract? And why would you anyway?

I must admit I find it difficult to refuse a nice cup of coffee, but in this case my imagination was getting the better of me. Sure, it had made it onto Jack Nicholson’s ‘bucket list’, but did I want it on mine?

In case you haven’t heard, kopi luwak is made from ripe Arabica coffee beans that have been ingested by a sort of wild cat – the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), found in Indonesian forests to be exact – which then defecates them onto the forest floor. Enzymes act on the berries in its gut and this is widely believed to be the key to the enhanced flavour.


Stop right now and just think about this for a moment. You’re strolling through a tropical forest and come across some rather lumpy animal poo on the ground. What would be your first reaction? Would a steaming cup of coffee spring to mind?

Who would have been the first to think to collect the faeces, wash out the coffee beans, dry them, roast them, grind them – and then (ahem!) drink the brew? It is quite frankly well outside of my own realm of usual Health and Safety considerations.

And yet it has been done for quite a while and sold at exorbitant prices, up to $50 a cup (goes to show, doesn’t it?) at good addresses.

Earlier this year I came across it a little closer to the source. I spotted a kopi luwak sign in a shopping centre in Jakarta, and then later at the opulent Hotel Mulia Senayan, perhaps Jakarta’s most upmarket hotel, where the sparkling coffee shop sells it. I knew then I had to taste a cup. Squeamishly.

Now, my head told me that there should be no problem, healthwise. All the literature explains patiently that the washing, drying and roasting of the beans at high temperatures kills whatever ‘baddies’ might have been lurking in the civet’s gut, but……. Hmmmm!

Aficionados of this unique and expensive cup of caffeine have waxed lyrical about the ‘earthy aromas’ (well, you’d expect that wouldn’t you?) and full bodied flavour (ditto). Milkier. Smoother. A pleasant touch of sweetness. Some call it one of the world’s greatest gourmet experiences.

As it happened, my cup of kopi luwak looked like any other coffee. It came in a regular cup, on a saucer, and tasted fine – but not sensational. What did I expect?

Now back in Australia, I am off to another place I have heard of in Sydney that does a good brew of it, for $9 a cup, to try to see what all the fuss is about.

Has anyone else tried kopi luwak? What did you think of it? Or have you drunk something else that was a little off the radar?


Hotel Mulia Senayan, Jl Asia Afrika Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia, www.hotelmulia.com

Olio Mediterranean Brasserie, Shop 1P1, 201-205 Pacific Highway, St Leonards, 02 9439 8988, info@olio.com.au, www.olio.com.au B, L, D, Bar and catering.

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