Minggu, 10 Oktober 2010

In a recent post I mentioned kopi luwak

KopipwtIn a recent post I mentioned kopi luwak, the coffee that is "processed" in the digestive tract of a civet cat (usually Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). These animals (found in southeast Asia and related to mongooses, although they look and behave a bit like raccoons) eat ripe coffee berries. Stomach enzymes have a subtle but apparently genuine chemical impact on the coffee beans, which are gathered as soon as possible after being passed by the civet, e.g., in the scat.

I mentioned Animal Coffee in my post, a company which specializes in kopi luwak. I soon received a 4-oz sample of luwak beans, as well as a hunk of civet crap in lucite (left), and a brochure, all enclosed in a very attractive gift box, a really nice presentation.

Is this sustainable coffee?
I'll get to a review of the coffee itself, but first let's try to determine if this is sustainable coffee.

Civets eat mostly ripe fruit and seeds, but also small vertebrates and insects. Since the civets do not eat coffee berries exclusively, luwak-processed beans are not common. They also must be harvested from fresh scat, before rain breaks up the clustered beans/poop. This is because 1) the elements might further change the taste of the beans, 2) the beans would be very hard to find on the forest floor individually, and 3) Animal Coffee, at least, requires the beans to come to them in scat form to be assured they are genuinely luwak-passed. So, the availability of luwak beans is limited; I've read that annual production is between 200 to 500 pounds (100 to 250 kilos).

Civetmap Asian palm civets have a wide range throughout southeast Asia (see map). Because civets do not produce enough volume from any single location, the beans are from a variety of places -- even (and probably) different countries. Some beans will be robusta, some arabica, some lots mixed. Distributors like Animal Coffee and Indonesian Grocery must be able to narrow down bean type at least some of the time, because both are types are available for order. There is no way, however, to determine if the beans came from a rustic small plot, or a large sun coffee plantation dosed with chemicals.

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