Urban Myth

  • Is Kopi Luwak or Luwak Coffee an urban myth?
  • Are there taste changes and chemical changes in the Kopi Luwak coffee beans during the process?
  • Is Kopi Luwak Coffee safe for human being consumption?
  • Is Kopi Luwak the only human food eaten first by an animal?

Here are the answers:

Many people argue that Kopi Luwak coffee is an urban myth or legend but I must deny this statement. Even, in some books specialized about coffees, I have read that the author doubts about its existence.

Massimo marconeTo clarify a bit more about Kopi Luwak coffee, Doctor Massimo Marcone, an expert on food, from University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, was sent a sample of Kopi Luwak coffee so that he could analyze it and find any difference between this coffee and an ordinary one. At first he did not believe in the existence of Kopi Luwak but finally he accepted the proposal.

Firstly, Marcone analyzed the Kopi Luwak coffee beans but did not find anything particular. Later, when he observed them under a scanning electron microscope, he noticed that the Kopi Luwak coffee beans possessed surface micro-pitting (as viewed at 10,000x magnification), which he could not find in ordinary beans. He thought that this difference was caused by the enzymes in the stomach of the civet, which affected the proteins inside the coffee beans.

After the necessary tests using a colorimeter and an electrophoresis system, the results showed that proteolytic enzymes were penetrating into all the civet beans and causing substantial breakdown of storage proteins. He confirmed changes in flavor and aroma profiles by using an electronic nose analysis which revealed differences between the Palm Civet coffee (Kopi Luwak) and normal coffee beans once roasted.

As the beans stay one or one and a half day in the digestive tract of the civet, the beans start to have a partial germination process and as a consequence the proteins change causing a reduction in the bitterness of the bean. The process by which the beans germinate is called malt, so it can be said that the civet probably produces malt coffee.

Chris RubinSome experts on coffee like the critic Chris Rubin says that drinking a cup of Kopi Luwak is a very interesting experience. “The aroma is rich and strong, and the coffee is incredibly full bodied, almost syrupy. It’s thick with a hint of chocolate, and lingers on the tongue with a long, clean aftertaste”, he explains in one of his critics. (see coffee glossary)

All scientific analysis confirm that Kopi Luwak coffee is not dangerous for health. Marcone said that as a scientist, he doubted about the safety of a product which has been in contact with excrement but his final tests show that due to the thorough washing process the quantity of pathogen organisms in the Kopi Luwak beans is insignificant. Whatever the washing process misses the roasting and brewing process will make up for.

Kopi Luwak’s unique process, which makes it attractive, can be in danger. According to Marcone’s conclusions, the positive effects that the digestive process of the animal has on the beans could be replaced by a chemical process in order to lower expenses and increase production but this would not be the real Kopi Luwak coffee.

Kopi Luwak Coffee is not the only food for humans, which was been eaten first by an animal.

Jacu Bird CoffeeIn Brazil, there is a bird called Jacu, which eats the ripe coffee berries and later, like Luwak, defecates them in the jungle where local people collect them to obtain the Jacu Bird Coffee.

Weasel CoffeeIn Vietnam, a particular group of weasels also eat coffee berries but the difference with Kopi Luwak is that later these weasels regurgitate the beans in the forest, where are collected and processed to obtain the Weasel Coffee.

Kape AlamidIn Philippines the civet is known as Alamid (paradoxurus hermaphroditus philippensis) and the final product is called Kape Alamid but it is quiet the same as Kopi Luwak.

BeeThe bees collect the nectar from flowers and store it in their “honey stomachs,” separate from their true stomachs. On their way back to the hive they secrete enzymes into it that begin converting the stuff into honey then, the bees regurgitate the honey.

Argan GoatArgan oil. In Morocco, there are a lot of goats who are capable of climbing the argan tree to eat the small fruit containing a pit. The pits are either spat out or excreted, undigested, amongst feces, then split to extract the bitter kernels inside, which are ground and pressed to make a nutty oil used in cooking and cosmetics.

Bird soupThe Edible-nest Swiftlet is a small bird of the swift family which is found in South-east Asia. Its nest is made of solidified saliva and is used to make bird’s nest soup called “Yan Wo” in Chinese cuisine. The soup is made by soaking and steaming the nests in water and is said to be an aphrodisiac and to have various medicinal qualities.