Kopi Luwak is indisputably the most expensive coffee in the world. It's famed for its rich earthen nutty flavor and incomparable smoothness. But even though Kopi Luwak is considered the crème de la crème of coffee, not all Kopi Luwak coffee is created equal and it's important to know what to look for before paying the premium on this exotic coffee. Check out our guide below for tips on buying the truest and best Kopi Luwak coffee.
Please note this article isn't about debating the merits of this coveted and at times controversial coffee. Some believe it's the best coffee to have ever graced the planet while others believe it's over priced. Regardless of how you feel about Kopi Luwak, if you're in the market to buy some then consider the following tips.
Brief Kopi Luwak Background
Kopi Luwak Coffee (aka: civet coffee) isn't a coffee type or even a bean type. It actually refers to the manner in which the coffee beans are processed and harvested.
In Indonesian, “Kopi” means coffee and “Luwak” means an Asian Palm Civet. The wild civets which resemble small cats roam the forests eating coffee cherries. These civets are actually coffee bean connoisseurs in that they naturally select only the best and ripest coffee cherries. As these cherries pass through the civet's system, digestive enzymes break down proteins in the coffee cherry responsible for the coffee's typical bitterness. Additionally, there are other chemical reactions that take place which infuse into the bean a whole new set of wildly alluring characteristics. Local farmers then scour the forests harvesting these partially digested coffee bean gems. Some coffee lovers find this process fascinating while others see it as unpalatable. Regardless, few will argue that it makes for an impressive coffee experience.
Kopi Luwak is harvested on the islands of Java, Sumatra, Bali, and Sulawesi.
What is Authentic Kopi Luwak
When there's such low supply and high demand for something, the rise of unscrupulous business practices tends to follow. Unfortunately, the market is full of companies that make bold claims that aren't frequently are unverifiable. Statistics say that over 70% of Kopi Luwak coffee is not authentic.
- True Kopi Luwak coffee should be harvested from 100% wild civets – not ones held in captivity. Raising civets in captivity and force feeding coffee cherries is deeply inhumane. Because the well-being of the civet is critical to the process, such treatment also results in a much lower quality product.
- Kopi Luwak coffee should also be harvested manually as in hand-picked. The most authentic and best Kopi Luwak will come with certifications stating these beans were manually harvested from 100% wild civets. I wouldn't recommend buying from a company that isn't forthcoming with the certifications.
- Transparency and accountability are already important factors in the coffee process. Given the extensive nature of the Kopi Luwak process, it's even more important here. The best providers of this exotic coffee will keep meticulous records of the entire process down to the harvesting locations.
Recommended Kopi Luwak
Of the numerous Kopi Luwak companies out there, no other company has impressed us like Gayo Kopi. Their coffee is the most traceable Kopi Luwak on the market which speaks volumes in an industry known for sometimes questionable practices. They manually harvest their beans from only 100% wild civets and most importantly, have the certifications to prove it. Gayo Kopi is subject to very stringent quality control and accountability standards giving their customers a peace of mind that transcends even the delicious taste of their exotic brew. Their slogan is appropriately “No Blends, Totally Pure, Totally Fresh” which is a fitting description of their approach. As a testimony to this fact, Gayo Kopi is partnered with the most well documented provider of Luwak in the world. This specific brand of Kopi Luwak is naturally very sweet, rich, and deep with distinct notes of dark chocolate, toffee, caramel, and molasses. If you're aiming for the best Kopi Luwak coffee, then Gayo Kopi is the brand you're looking for.
If you're a coffee lover with an exotic palette, check out our list of best exotic coffees on the market for some additional ideas for your next purchase.