Luwak Coffee

From: (Olin Shivers)
Subject: Luwak coffee (was "Special coffee?")
Date: 18 Mar 1995 21:59:19 GMT
Organization: Lab for Computer Science, MIT
Distribution: world
References: <>
In-reply-to:'s message of Mon, 13 Mar 1995 18:33:27 +0000

   From: (patrick stephen kavanagh)
   Date: Mon, 13 Mar 1995 18:33:27 +0000

   A colleague at work has mentioned that there is a coffee that is 
   special in that it is eaten by an animal, he knows not what, before 
   it is processed for human consumption.
   Can anyone back up this claim?
   -- Patrick Stephen Kavanagh

Yes, I can back this up. There is a type of nocturnal civet called the Luwak
that roams around in Indonesia and eats perfectly ripe coffee cherries.  After
the coffee cherries pass through the Luwak's digestive system, the locals
collect the Luwak's droppings and wash them off, recovering the coffee beans
still encased in their protective endocarps. So passing through a Luwak's GI
tract is pretty similar to the initial phase of coffee-cherry processing --
the outer hull and fruit are pulped and removed.  Then you just hull the
recovered beans and proceed as usual.

Luwak cofee is very hard to get a hold of on the world market, because the
annual production is miniscule, and not amenable to scaling by industrial
techniques -- you can't automate or train a nocturnal civet! And even if you
can find it, the price is sky-high. It's the coffee analog of hunting for
truffles with pigs.

Every time I tell someone about Luwak coffee, we have *exactly* the same
interaction (which is the same one I had when I was first told about it).
At some point in the story, when you explain how this Luwak eats only the
perfectly ripe coffee cherries, the listener gets this cautious look on
his face, and says (always the exact same words), "Are you telling me that..."
and the teller always nods and says, "Yes, that's exactly right. Roasted
cat-shit for $300/pound."

Were it myself, I would be marketing this stuff under the brand name, "Kacafe,"
but my venture capital friends just won't listen to me. I can't stop wondering
would I would use for a logo.

If you want to try this coffee, I do know of a US operation that imports and
roasts coffee, and is able to get Luwak coffee: J. Martinez & Co.  Although
the bulk of their business is large-scale supply, they will sell to
individuals via mail order. I have also heard that their Atlanta store is in
Buckhead, and on certain days they will brew a pot of Luwak coffee in-house
and sell it by the cup.

Truth in advertising: I have never had an opportunity to try Luwak coffee, 
so I can't tell you personally what it's like, but on my next trip to Atlanta
I am definitely going to try to go by the Martinez store and sample some.
However, I have friends who have had it, and they said it was fabulous.
The descriptions I recall were "very complex," "very distinct -- not like
anything else I've ever had," and "unique." One of my friends thought it
lived up to the price tag; another thought it was great, but given that
Blue Mountain coffee is merely a tenth the price...

I mail-order my (non-Luwak) coffee from the Martinezes, because it is pleasant
to deal with friendly experts, and the coffee is noticeably better than what I
can get where I live in Harvard Sq (Coffee Connection), so I do know their
business line: 800-642-5282. If you call and get a Jamaican accent, that's a
Martinez: Johns Jr. and Sr. and Melanie. They have always been very helpful to
me in ordering coffee, even in the tiny half-pound and pound purchases that I
make, and they are happy to talk about coffee. They also ship in those fancy
low-oxygen gas-valve bags. They do not sell vanilla-flavored raspberry coffee.

One more tip. I have noticed that whenever I call before 10 am, I always get a
friendly Atlantan on the phone, never a friendly Jamaican. The Martinezes
appear to be real night-cats. Like the Luwak.