Civet coffee known for its high aroma, smooth taste, and low acidity – often quite sweet and very full in the cup – civet coffee is made with coffee beans that are retrieved from the excretion of an animal called the civet.
Civet Coffee Producing Regions
Civet coffee is produced in various countries including the Philippines, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, and East Timor. In Indonesia civet coffee is known as Kopi Luwak and in the Philippines it is called Kape Alamid.
How Civet Coffee is Produced
The coffee beans pass through the civet’s digestive tract where the outer fruit is mostly digested, and then the beans are then defecated onto the ground. Coffee farmers then collect the coffee beans and usually wash and sun-dry them.
Natural Lack of Bitterness Requires Only Light Roasting
One of the most pronounced characteristics of civet coffee beans is their natural lack of bitterness, so they are only lightly roasted to preserve their complex flavors.
Where is Civet Coffee Popular
Civet coffee produced in the Philippines is known as Kape Alamid (in Tagalog regions) and Motit Coffee (in the Cordillera). Civet coffee is popular in coffeehouses in Vietnam where there is even a market for simulated civet coffee.
Sumatra Civet Coffee
The largest regional producer of civet coffee is Sumatra (KEPAHIANG REGENCY, INDONESIA), where the coffee plants are mostly the Arabica varietal (Coffea arabica var. arabica). Some Sumatra civet coffee farms produce wild civet coffee while others produce farmed civet coffee by constraining the civets within defined boundaries.
Natural Selection By Civets Provides Premium Beans
The civet’s unique ability to select only perfectly ripe coffee cherry (fruit) to feed upon helps to ensure a consistent high quality of coffee beans.
This natural selection process for the best quality coffee beans is one of the reasons why wild-collected civet coffee has such a smooth flavor profile and aroma which may not be the same with farm-raised civets that are fed coffee beans picked by farmers.
Enzymatic Changes In the Civet’s Digestive Tract
When the civet eats the coffee cherry, the fruit is mostly digested in the civet’s stomach, but the seed inside (the coffee bean) is not. Research has shown that enzymes in the civet’s digestive tract cause certain chemical processes to occur on the coffee beans’ surface and also within the porous coffee beans.
Specific proteins that normally give coffee a bitter taste are broken down by the enzymes, resulting in a less bitter coffee and allowing the coffee’s notable highlights to shine through when the coffee is given a light roast.
While some people are concerned about civet coffee’s potential bacterial contaminants (e.g., E Coli), others claim that civet coffee is perfectly safe because the civet’s stomach enzymes help to eliminate the bacteria, as does the washing, sun-drying, and the high temperature of the roasting.
Scientific Classification of Coffee Producing Civets
Civets are classified as Paradoxorus Philippinensis (an endangered species) in the Philippines, but in Sumatra they are in the family Viverridae.
The civet has been compared to animals in the cat family and also the weasel family, though it is not related to either. One of the most numerous types of civets on civet coffee farms is the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).
Other Animals That Provide Pre-Digested Coffee Beans
Civets aren’t the only animals that are utilized for their coffee bean processing abilities. Defecated coffee beans are also gathered up from the feces of wild Muntjac (barking deer) in Indonesia and Malaysia – this coffee is known as Kopi Muncak (or Kopi Muntjak).
Civet Coffee Bean Varietals
Civet coffee is usually sold by weight. The most common type of civet coffee bean is the Arabica varietal (Coffea arabica var. arabica), but Robusta (Coffea canephora var. robusta) and Liberica (Coffea liberica) are also produced.
The Liberica coffee plant species is considered endangered in the Philippines, as is the Philippine civet (Paradoxorus Philippinensis), so the Philippine government along with private foundations have encouraged initiatives that preserve both the coffee plant species and the animal in the region.
The Price of Civet Coffee
Civet Coffee is one of the world’s rarest coffees, as well as the most expensive, selling for up to $600 per pound on the world coffee market. Civet coffee is also sold by the cup in many coffeehouses in Southeast Asia.
CIVET COFFEE FROM KEPAHIANG REGENCY, INDONESIA: < $400 per pound