“Would you like to try something special?”
Wayan, the driver I had hired for my last day in Bali, said with a sly smile. Not quite sure what he was hinting at, and certainly not wanting to commit to something “special” sight unseen, I asked for a bit more info.
“Kopi Luwak coffee. It’s an Indonesian specialty. Very expensive to buy outside of here.”
Believe it or not, I had heard of this rare coffee, known of its smooth and earthy flavor profile. The process itself is rather… unique. Raw coffee beans are eaten by a civet cat and then pooped out, only partially digested. These beans are then cleaned, roasted, and brewed, much to the delight of many a coffee connoisseur.
Let’s just say that I was a bit hesitant.
“Come on. It’s only 50,000 rupiah (about $3 1/2 USD). You will not know if you like it or not unless you try it.”
Fair point Wayan. Who I am to argue with such wise words?
We pulled up to a peaceful coffee farm overlooking a patch of beautiful rice fields. At the entrance, statues of an elderly man and woman, both seemingly overjoyed, are placed on either side of the walkway.
I wondered, was this before or after they tried the kopi luwak?
I sat down at one of the outdoor tables and was greeted with a wide smile.
I nodded, hoping that I hadn’t just made a decision that I’d regret.
Before too long my waitress returned with a tray full of small glass cups containing liquids of all different colors.
It was a complimentary tasting, which sounded right up my alley. No better way to prepare for coffee that had passed through another mammals anal glands!
The left side of the menu focused on teas, including turmeric (my favorite of the bunch), lemon, rosella, ginger, and then a bit of hot chocolate as a wild card. On the right side, various different coffees were included, including plain, coconut, vanilla, and ginseng. The last space, labeled and usually reserved for the kopi luwak coffee, had been left empty. Clearly they felt like whatever I still had coming was more than enough.
As if on cue, my own personal cup arrived just as I finished the last tasting cup.
The brew inside the wooden cup was extremely dark. Like black hole territory, where light cannot escape. Peering down into it, the cinnamon stick that was included disappeared from view a few millimeters under the surface.
Off to the side sat a suggestively shaped banana fritter, as if to hammer it all home.
I gave the sludge a few swirls with my cinnamon stirrer and then went for it.
Whew, this was definitely some strong stuff. Though if I hadn’t known about the process beforehand, I probably would have assumed that it was just a good dark roast. Admittedly I’m no coffee expert, so perhaps there are subtleties that I’m missing.
Still, there’s no way that I’d pay over $100 for a half pound of kopi luwak beans.
I finished up the last few sips and began to walk towards the exit. After making my way through the farm’s store, where multiple bags of tea and coffee were being sold, I exited into a large outdoor area next to the parking lot. Along one of the walls was a row of cages, each containing one or more of the civet cats.
Ugh, the sight of all these poor animals caged up for mass production was heartbreaking and really something I wish I would have seen beforehand. Sadly, this kind of animal cruelty is a widespread problem throughout this area of the world, and has only gotten worse as kopi luwak coffee has gained in popularity.
As we drove back, I couldn’t help but be disappointed in myself for in some small way helping to support this kind of practice. Sure, I really had no idea, and back home I eat plenty of meat, where those animals are probably treated just as poorly if not worse.
All I knew was that a bad taste had been left in my mouth, and it wasn’t the coffee.