Thomas White Global Investing
Indonesia Stamp
July 25, 2008
A Postcard from Indonesia
Indonesia: Kopi Luwak – Humble Origins of the Most Exotic Coffee

Kopi Luwak

Quality control has become an industry concern, as the integrity of Kopi Luwak is compromised when civets are force-fed old varieties of coffee beans. According to Canadian food scientist Massimo Marcone, around 42% of Kopi Luwaks presently sold are either adulterated or complete fakes.

Leaping from branch to branch in the deep forests of Indonesia, a large squirrel-like creature, the Civet, pauses to have a small cherry fruit. A simple act. Yet this forms the beginning of the journey towards the world’s most expensive coffee. Move over espresso, welcome Kopi Luwak.

Kopi Luwak, meaning coffee and civet in Indonesian, is one of the oddities of the cuisine-hungry world. Untainted by automation and machines, the beans for this exotic brew are processed by the digestive juices of a small marsupial in the civet family. The enzyme in this civet’s stomach reduces caffeine content in the beans. These ‘processed’ beans are separated from its droppings and roasted. A steaming demitasse of Kopi Luwak at a plush Paris café costs $30 to $50. A pound of this exclusivity can go up to $600.

Kopi Luwak’s aristocratic aloofness is further enhanced because of its scarcity. A pound of the Indonesian civet’s precious droppings yields less than five ounces of beans, which is reduced further by 20% through roasting. Only about 500 to 1,000 pounds of the coffee are available in the global market. The rich, earthy, and aromatic flavor of the coffee has ensured a wide following in Japan, which has the highest sales, as well as in the U.S.

Exclusivity in these days of a globalized world does not mean inaccessibility. From New York to Paris, and from Shanghai to Tokyo globalization has ensured that consumer desires are always met. Even for such a highly specialized product as Kopi Luwak.

Those little civets deep in the forests of Indonesia may never know that they have helped create the world’s most expensive and exotic coffee. For them, it is just another day in the forest. And just another fruit. Simple. Yet as far as Kopi Luwak is concerned, simplicity does not come cheap.

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