Kopi Luwak Farm Tour
Last week, we visited the Alam Sari Agrotourism farm in Ubud, Bali where we had a chance to taste the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, and get an up close and personal look at the coffee beans which had been through one of the most exotic forms of coffee processing!
Known to sell at exorbitant prices of up to $1/gm in the overseas market, Kopi Luwak is a coffee made using coffee beans that have been naturally fermented/cured by a Luwak’s digestive enzymes.
The ‘Luwak’ is an Asian Palm Civet native to Indonesia and few neighbouring Asian countries. It generally feeds on small pulpy fruits and takes a particular fascination towards the sweet coffee berries of the Arabica (more commonly cultivated in Indonesia) and Robusta species.
Top – Luwak poo. Bottom (from left) – cleaned coffee beans; roasting; powdering
The whole coffee cherries consumed by the civet undergoes fermentation in its digestive tract and the coffee beans gets excreted along with its poo. (YUCK, that’s it I’m outta here).
(For those of who still reading this post) It is then cleaned thoroughly to separate out the coffee beans; sun-dried, roasted and powdered.
The mini walking tour of the farm premises yielded an up close and friendly glance at a Luwak too! Yes, it’s caged. But I’m sure this Luwak was there only for visitors to see one in flesh & blood.
Why is it so expensive?
While the story itself garnered this coffee a lot of popularity the world over, Kopi Luwak tends to be very expensive not only because of a growing demand but because this coffee cannot be mass produced ethically and economically at the same time,
- The Luwak is known to feed on coffee cherries only seasonally. So there is only limited supply available.
- Luwaks live in the wild and therefore the steps involved in collecting the poo in the wee hours of the morning requires dedicated personnel to be on the job, while the task itself can be daunting and time consuming.
- Mass produced Luwak Kopi is often sourced from the poo of overfed Luwaks bred in captivity!
While some producers like Ross Kopi painstakingly produce Kopi Luwak from only the ‘wild’ Luwak population in their farms, there seems to be no certification in place at this stage to certify the same.
Read more about sustainable coffee production in Indonesia and what it takes to produce ‘wild’ Kopi Luwak.
The sampler cup of the Kopi Luwak cost us AU$5, which is reasonable as most specialty coffees cost the same (or even more at times) in Melbourne!
The lady who accompanied us on the tour displayed good skill in making a cup of Kopi Luwak using a Siphon Coffee Maker. The extracted cup of coffee was completely devoid of any grit, tasted rich and full bodied.
As part of the tour, we were also given free samplers of all the different coffee blends the farm produces. Of the lot, I loved the spiced cocoa, which was very unique in flavour with additions of spices like ginger and cinnamon.
The Verdict – what can you expect?
The popular opinion is that the coffee is sold more on the story rather than quality. Some coffee critics have even gone as far as saying it is absolutely a gimmick and lacks any flavour!
While I’m no coffee connoisseur to challenge this verdict, Luwak coffee didn’t fail to impress me. I found this coffee to be at par with some of the best filtered coffees I’ve had in Melbourne and Kenya.
But, will anyone be able to tell apart Kopi Luwak in a blind taste test? Most probably not!
Kopi Luwak is served black without milk. The coffee had a good depth of flavor (richness) while still maintaining low levels of both acidity and bitterness (the Arabica coffee beans are generally less bitter too).
Pure Kopi Luwak without mixing any other coffee blends is hard to find unless you are willing to pay a huge price, so if you get a chance to visit one of the Agrofarms, I suggest you at least try a sample cup and make your own judgement!