Cat Poop Coffee: Is Kopi Luwak Really Worth The Hype?

Civet coffee has gained a reputation as the world’s most expensive coffee. Called Kopi Luwak in Indonesia, this cat poop coffee is famous around the world. It is also one of the sought-after souvenir items for travellers coming to Southeast Asia. The question is, does it really taste better than your regular cup from the corner coffee shop?

In the Philippines, it is also possible to purchase civet coffee. However, the Balinese have made an entire tourist industry based on this drink. On a recent trip to Bali, we were taken to the Alas Harum Agro Tourism Farm to learn about the process behind making a cup of Kopi Luwak.

I must say, seeing the civet cats or luwak cats in their tiny cages made me feel uncomfortable. I have read about some questionable practices when it comes to production of this coffee (including force feeding the cats). I can’t prove that they are doing this in Indonesia but I wanted to put my concerns out there before we proceed.

Kopi Luwak Civet Cat
The caged civet cats at the Alas Harum Agro Tourism facility

Back to the coffee…our lovely guide Praha told us about how the cats eat the coffee cherries and digest only the flesh. After about twelve hours of fermentation inside the animal, the coffee beans come out intact with the rest of the cat’s droppings.

Kopi Luwak
The droppings are dried in the sun and washed before the beans are roasted.

The beans are then washed and dried for several days before being washed again. Once the coffee beans are sufficiently dried and cleaned, it’s time for roasting. At this point, they are just like regular beans. They are roasted then manually ground to a fine powder.

Roasting Kopi Luwak
A Balinese woman patiently roasts Kopi Luwak Beans over a low fire.

At this point, they are ready to brew. We purchased a cup of Kopi Luwak for IDR50,000 for about US$3.50. That’s just about the same price as your usual Starbucks cup. However, take note that this is a very small cup of black coffee. Compared to a cup of your usual Caramel Macchiato with skim milk or whatever your go-to drink is, this is expensive.

They served the Kopi Luwak with a small cup of “regular” Balinese coffee for comparison. I must say, I feel like they deliberately made the regular brew very thin. It was also very grainy. The regular coffee tasted so bad that almost anything could be better, even an instant cup of Nescafe is ten times better (not that there’s anything wrong with Nescafe).

The Kopi Luwak had a distinct acidic taste. This comes out due to the fermentation that takes place inside the civet cat. That adds another dimension to the coffee but the question is, do you want your coffee to be more acidic than it already is? As far as I know, most people are forced to avoid coffee because of its acidic properties. In other words, the acidity is not exactly a selling point.

The coffee didn’t really have an enticing aroma either. You know that freshly-brewed smell you wake up to when your spouse decides to get up and get the percolator going on a rare  day? I didn’t get any of that.

Overall, I don’t think Kopi Luwak is worth all the hype. The cost is also hiked up because of the expenses that go towards the care of the animals. It is interesting to try once just because this is cat poop coffee and humans can be crazy like that. However, if you ask me, I don’t see myself choosing Kopi Luwak over my regular cup.

On the upside, we also got to sample 14 different kinds of tea and coffee.

Alas Harum Agro Tourism
We were given a sampling flight of 14 different teas and coffees.

See the full video from our Kopi Luwak experience below: