Civet 'cat' dung fuels Indonesia's luxury coffee

Indonesia's self-proclaimed "King of Luwak", Gunawan Supriadi, is having a hard time keeping up with demand for the beans excreted by his stable of pampered civet "cats".

And he's not alone. Demand for coffee brewed with beans plucked from the dung of the furry, weasel-like creatures - known locally as luwaks - is surging among well-healed connoisseurs around the world, exporters say.

About 40 civets at Supriadi's plantation in West Lampung district, Sumatra, provide the intestinal machinery for his Raja Luwak (King of Luwak) brand of bean. Lampung is the undisputed capital of luwak coffee.

"My target is to have 150 civets soon because I have to meet the surge in demand," Supriadi said.

"In 2008, I gathered about 50 kilograms of luwak beans and sold them to local distributors. In 2009, I sold 300 kilograms. In 2010, I sold 1.2 tonnes."

The "golden droppings" of the luwak, or Asian palm civet, fetch up to $800 per kilogram (two pounds) in countries like the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

It's another story altogether at retail level. Single cups of the world's most expensive coffee have been known to sell for almost $100 in specialty outlets in London.

The civets play two roles. Firstly, they tend to choose the best berries to digest. Experts say wild civets are the most discerning, but their droppings are also the most difficult to harvest.

Having nibbled off the thin outer layer of fruit, the civets put their digestive juices to work. The enzymes penetrate the beans - usually arabica in Sumatra - and change their chemical balance in subtle ways.

The end product, after a good wash and light roasting, lacks the bitterness of ordinary coffee and has a unique, soft flavour.

"If luwak coffee is a car, then it must be a Rolls-Royce," Supriadi said.

Exporter Doni Irawan said his sales had grown 50 percent in the past year.

"It has become the prima donna of coffee due to its high price and limited supply. It keeps gaining new, dedicated fans," he said.

The tradition of luwak coffee stretches back hundreds of years to the time of Dutch rule in Indonesia.

Banned from their colonial masters' coffee crops, indigenous farmers took to collecting, cleaning and roasting undigested beans found in the forest-dwelling animals' droppings.

The Southeast Asian archipelago of 240 million people is now the world's main producer of luwak coffee, but the industry has really only flourished in recent years and official export figures are hard to find.

Retailers said demand was also high among status-conscious members of Indonesia's burgeoning middle class.

In a country where around 40 percent of the population earns less than $2 a day, luwak coffee sells for about $8 a cup in up-market shopping malls.

"I never used to like coffee at all, but after trying luwak coffee my world changed. I became addicted," Jakarta resident Galang Sulung Ramanda, 24, told AFP.

"I also drink it for its health benefits. I heard that it can prevent asthma, Parkinson's, colon cancer and diabetes," he said.

The success of luwak coffee has given birth to a plethora of fake brands, which promise that special civet experience at half the usual price.

Not to be outdone, Vietnamese entrepreneurs say they have developed a way to chemically treat regular beans to produce the same luwak taste.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Chelsea are interested in loaning out Romelu Lukaku to Everton again next season
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series