What do a civet (a nocturnal mammal) and the best-tasting coffee have in common? Dung. People around the world are known to consume exotic or “luxury” foods and civet coffee is only one of those luxury items that can set a buyer back over $200 for just one pound of beans. But why would someone shell out a couple hundred bucks for coffee beans that have been covered in civet poop? It all comes down to the flavor.
The civet (sometimes referred to as the civet cat) is a tropical mammal located in regions of Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean. They have been used for many years for a variety of purposes including food and fur. The musk is collected from the civet and used in different fragrances. But one of their most prized uses is for the collection of coffee beans.
In regions like the Philippine highlands, the civet roams wild and consumes coffee berries from the coffee trees that grow throughout the area. The civet is unable to digest the inner portion of the berry and thus the leftover bean is excreted in the civet’s dung. Before the bean is excreted, the bean ferments in the civet’s digestive system. The coffee beans are collected and removed from the civet dung providing coffee connoisseurs with what is described as a “smooth, chocolaty” brew of coffee without the bitter aftertaste.
In recent years, the demand of civet coffee has increased dramatically which has led to “faux” civet coffee beans. One buyer of civet beans based in Manila sells the beans for approximately $225 a pound. The company’s biggest market of buyers is in Japan and South Korea.
Because of the luxury price for this luxury coffee, farmers in the region have started civet farming. The animals are kept in cages and the dung collected at the farm rather than searching out the dung in the wild. Some buyers will only purchase beans from wild civet dung. A collector of wild civet coffee can get about $9-$10 a pound for the beans.
For many years “civet coffee” was thought to be an urban legend. In fact, locals have been using the beans excreted from the civet for many years. Now that the beans can equate to a lot of money for a family, the beans are collected and sold. But in some countries, civet coffee is dubbed a big java scam. The rarity of the beans has lead to coffee shop mixing the beans with common coffee beans but still charging the exotic price. Coffee-shop chains in the US are hesitant about selling civet coffee for worries of liability lawsuits.
Civets located in China are being exterminated because they are believed to spread disease. They may also be linked to hundreds of deaths around the globe. There are over a dozen different types of civets and those found in China are different than those found in other regions like Indonesia.
Once the beans are collected from the civet’s dung, the beans are cleaned and dried. The clean, smooth flavor of civet coffee is attributed to the civet’s stomach acids that ferment the beans before they are excreted. Not surprisingly, people that have had the chance to taste civet coffee have said it has distinct flavor and “aroma”.
Civet coffee is considered one of the rarest types of coffees in the world. It can be purchased online at an average cost of $350 a pound.
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