On the counter to the right of the cash register at Petit Paris, the French bakery on Market Street, there are several small boxes of kopi luwak coffee that have a not-so-small price.
Known as the world’s most expensive coffee, Petit Paris’s price of CI$100 for a 50-gram box of kopi luwak collected in the wild is indicative of the rarity of this product, which is processed through one of the strangest production methods in the world.
The coffee beans used to make kopi luwak have been consumed as fleshy cherries and digested by a cat-like Indonesian animal called a palm civet or a civet cat. The palm civets eat only the best cherries and during digestion, enzymes interact with — and some say improve — the hard beans, which are then defecated.
The fecal matter is then collected, and the beans are washed, sanitised, dried and roasted. The resulting product is sometimes called “cat poop coffee.”
When brewed, the result is a smooth, less acidic coffee that some people like, and others don’t. However, kopi luwak’s high price isn’t a reflection of its quality, but instead a reflection of its rarity due to its production process. It is therefore considered more of an experiential novelty than anything else.
As with foie gras, another high-end gourmet product, some animal rights activists protest the fact that production is now happening less from palm civets in the wild and increasing from farms of caged animals kept in harsh conditions.
Kopi luwak has been featured in several films and television shows, including “The Bucket List” and Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” in which he and Jay Leno sample two cups that cost US$75 each.