July 05, 2007

Kopi Luwak

Surely this ought go down as the final revenge of developing nations!

Surely this ought go down as the final revenge of developing nations!

A bit of background first. A common essence used in natural perfumes is extracted from the glands of an animal called the Civet Cat. Though it's called a "cat", the animal itself is related to the mongoose. It is generally found in Africa, southern India and south-east Asia. These are wild animals, and are generally harmless.

One sub-species of the civet, called the Asian Palm civet, is commonly found on coffee plantations in Indonesia, Vietnam and nearby countries. The civet subsists of coffee fruits, which it partially digests. The beans aren't digested at all, and are excreted.

Now comes the gross part (or fun part, depending on your point-of-view). This has to be the brain-child of a marketing genius. The excreted beans are collected, cleaned, and subjected to the same processing as regular coffee beans.

These beans are then are sold in coffee consuming western nations, primarily US and UK. The brand is called "Kopi Luwak" (civet coffee in Indonesian) and marketed as the most exclusive beverage in the world. "Only 500 pounds are produced each year!", goes the pitch.

But the best is yet to come. The stuff is priced upwards of $600/lb. Did I mention marketing genius ?

I can just see the nouveau riche at the clubs boasting about their uber-expensive morning fix. I can see the business executives standing in line at Starbucks asking for a grande kopi luwak with room for cream.

All for some coffee defecated by a fetid mongoose half a world away!!!