Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, is coffee made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and other related civets, then passed through its digestive tract. A civet eats the berries for their fleshy pulp. In its stomach, proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet’s intestines the beans are then defecated, having kept their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness, widely noted as the most expensive coffee in the world.
Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines (where the product is called motit coffee in the Cordillera and kape alamid in Tagalog areas) and also in East Timor (where it is called kafé-laku). Weasel coffee is a loose English translation of its name cà phê Chồn in Vietnam, where popular, chemically simulated versions are also produced.
Kopi is the Indonesian word for coffee. Luwak is a local name of the Asian palm civet in Sumatra. Palm civets are primarily frugivorous, feeding on berries and pulpy fruits such as from fig trees and palms. Civets also eat small vertebrates, insects, ripe fruits and seeds
Early production began when beans were gathered in the wild from where a civet would defecate as a means to mark its territory. On farms, civets are either caged or allowed to roam within defined boundaries. Coffee cherries are eaten by a civet for their fruit pulp. After spending about a day and a half in the civet’s digestive tract the beans are then defecated in clumps, having kept their shape and still covered with some of the fleshy berry’s inner layers. They are gathered, thoroughly washed, sun dried and given only a light roast so as to keep the many intertwined flavors and lack of bitterness yielded inside the civet
Kopi luwak is a name for many specific cultivars and blends of arabica, robusta, liberica, excelsa or other beans eaten by civets, hence the taste can vary greatly. Nonetheless, kopi luwak coffees have a shared aroma profile and flavor characteristics, along with their lack of bitterness. Coffee critic Chris Rubin has said, “The aroma is rich and strong, and the coffee is incredibly full bodied, almost syrupy. It’s thick with a hint of chocolate, and lingers on the tongue with a long, clean aftertaste. Kopi luwak tastes unlike heavy roasted coffees, since roasting levels range only from cinnamon color to medium, with little or no caramelization of sugars within the beans as happens with heavy roasting. Moreover, kopi luwaks which have very smooth profiles are most often given a lighter roast. Iced kopi luwak brews may bring out some flavors not found in other coffees.
Sumatra is the world’s largest regional producer of kopi lowak. Sumatran civet coffee beans are mostly an early arabica variety cultivated in the Indonesian rchipelago since the seventeenth century. Tagalog cafe alamid (or alamid cafe) comes from civets fed on a mixture of coffee beans and is sold in the Batangas region along with gift shops near airports in the Philippines
Research by food scientist Massimo Marcone at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada showed that the civet’s endogenous digestive secretions seep into the beans. These secretions carry proteolytic enzymes which break down the beans’ proteins, yielding shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Since the flavor of coffee owes much to its proteins, there is a hypothesis that this shift in the numbers and kinds of proteins in beans after being swallowed by civets brings forth their unique flavor. The proteins are also involved in non-enzymatic Maillard browning reactions brought about later by roasting. Moreover, while inside a civet the beans begin to germinate by malting which also lowers their bitterness
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