Sunday, October 17, 2010

World's Most Expensive Coffee

On the islands of Java and Sumatra there lives a small cat-like animal called a civet (or luwak by the locals). This cute little animal likes to eat cherry coffee berries. The coffee berries tumble around in the civet's digestive system, some chemical reactions happen, and then the still-intact coffee beans are pooped out. These beans are then washed, dried, roasted and brewed as usual. 

A luwak (
Cherry coffee berries (
Luwak poop (
World's most expensive coffee (
Although I've lived in Indonesia for more than a year, I had never tried this specialty until today. I was walking around the Grand Indonesia Mall in Jakarta with Jackie and her friend Miranda when I spied a Kopi Luwak cafe. Spontaneously, I suggested we go in. The sign on the table reminded us that kopi luak is the world's most expensive coffee; a pound of the stuff apparently goes for $300 in the US. And at certain establishments one cup of this special joe can cost $50. Fortunately for us, this particular cafe was selling it for about $8 a cup, which, while still super expensive for a cup of coffee in Indonesia, is still much cheaper than $50 in the US. So, I ordered one cup for Jackie and me to try.

No sooner had we placed our order than we were approached by a camera crew from CNN wondering if they could interview me as I drank my first cup of kopi luwak! What a way to make this special moment even more extraordinary! The woman interviewing me turned out to be Sara Sidner, an international correspondent based in New Delhi who was putting together a multi-day feature on Indonesia that will air November 22nd to 26th. She asked me if I came here today especially to drink kopi luwak (no, it was a spontaneous decision), how I thought it tasted (good...I guess), if I thought it was worth the price (well, maybe just once to try it) and a few other questions. I wonder if my interview will make it on air. 

With Jackie, Miranda and Sara Sidner at Kopi Luwak Cafe
What I didn't say was how surprised I was that the coffee wasn't freshly brewed. Instead, the waitress came over with an empty mug, a bag of powder and a thermos of hot water. Essentially, she was making instant coffee for me at the table. Really? I'm paying $8 a cup for instant coffee? To her credit, she let us all sniff the contents of the powder bag before she stirred in the water. It smelled aromatic enough. We were then instructed to wait two minutes for the coffee to settle in the mug. The camera crew hovered nearby as Miranda kept an eye on her watch. And then the moment of truth. I raised my mug, inhaled deeply and took my first sip. I was expecting to be wow'ed by its exotic flavor and hints of whoknowswhat but instead it just sort of tasted like regular coffee, albeit a very dark and silky one. I usually don't drink black coffee and had to fight the urge to add milk and sugar. I will say, though, that it had a very nice, clean aftertaste. 

If anyone sees us on TV, please let me know!


  1. It's so funny how often TV reporters sneak up out of the blue on you! Hehehe. We'll keep an eye on CNN for you. <3, Banny

  2. I knew about Indonesians feeding cats coffee and then brewing the remains. But I'm relieved to hear they were feeding them the entire coffee fruit, not just the beans! Cats can be terrifying when they're wired.

    Just marked that week (incidentally the week of Thanksgiving) on my calendar. Can't wait to see you then!

  3. Update: This segment recently aired on CNN. Check it out!

    Thank you Henry for sharing the link!