Indonesia

What’s in a cup of Kopi Luwak coffee?

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“Everything gets better with a cup of coffee.. or so they said.”

Bali, Indonesia is a cultural melting pot. Apart from being the pinned destination of surfers from around the world, it is also quite popular for the rice terraces, performance arts,  wood and stone sculpting, wine (this caught me by surprise too) and a special type of coffee called Kopi Luwak or civet (not mongoose) coffee amongst other things. It’s been a couple of weeks since I got back from this remarkable place and I’m still reliving certain moments there in my mind.

One of our tours included the Kopi Luwak tour which was hosted by Jambe Asri Agrotourism via a local tour operator that my husband had contacted. The facility included patches of coffee plantation- predominantly Arabica, dotted by rustic work benches and tables with an elaborate spread of spices and cacao beans, a smoking cauldron by the roasting and grinding section and aisles of small enclosures that were temporary residences of the civets. I did also notice a proud rooster resting by the staff kitchen and I was told that he was preparing for a fight later that evening. I wasn’t sure if it was with another rooster or a human and I hoped it wasn’t with one of the dormant civets.

Some of you may have already caught this update of mine on Instagram

Food She Blogged on Instagram about Kopi Luwak

Food She Blogged on Instagram about Kopi Luwak

We got to sample fourteen different varieties of coffee and tea (the bigger cup was a cup of unsweetened Kopi Luwak) and did a brief walk-through of the processes involved as well.

Coffee originated in Indonesia thanks to the Dutch during the colonial period and Kopi Luwak itself was discovered by a group of curious natives who realized that the Asian palm civets could not fully digest the coffee beans after consuming the cherries and excreted them whole. I wonder what compelled them to roast the fruits of the civets’ bowel (or beans to be more specific) but thanks to them, we have what we know today as the Kopi Luwak coffee.

The Asian Palm Civet

The Asian Palm Civet

This picture that you see here was taken using my cellphone through the square gaps of the cage. You can see how restricted it really is in there. Poor fella.

The civets in their natural habitats choose ripe berries and only digest the fruit without fully affecting the bean itself. The partially digest bean has a different flavour because of this and I must say – it is an acquired taste.
For food safety reasons, it goes through a series of at least four wash steps before the actual drying, sorting and roasting stages. The overall production is partly mechanized and partly indigenous as some of the natives are still involved using traditional sorting methods.

Kopi Luwak Coffee beans

Kopi Luwak Coffee beans

 

Spices used in infused tea and coffee along with cacao beans

Spices used in infused tea and coffee along with cacao beans

Raw cacao beans grown and harvested in Bali

Raw cacao beans grown and harvested in Bali

Common spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger are used in the collection of infused tea leaves. Indonesia is quite popular for its cacao beans as well.

The staff at Jambe Asri were quite amiable, approachable and ever ready to answer our questions. We got a chance to try the traditional coffee beans grinding technique using a large mortar and pestle. It seemed easy at first, and then it got tiring.

Grinding coffee beans traditionally in Bali

Grinding coffee beans traditionally in Bali

When it comes to storage, whole coffee beans stay longer than ground ones and they also retain better flavour. By adding different spices, the end flavour of the coffee can be altered in the ground range of the coffee beans. Traditional roasting techniques were demonstrated to visitors who were also encouraged to participate by stirring the hot beans (if not pose for a picture).

Traditional roasting of coffee beans

Traditional roasting of coffee beans

Although the tour was informative and interactive, what left me feeling with a heavy heart was the sight of the civets in those petite cages. In their natural habitat, they can easily spot a good berry. However under captivity, they are usually force fed in order to meet increasing demands.
Not many people are aware that there are brands that support Kopi Luwak beans obtained from wild civets and these brands also come with a certification mark that has the words ‘caged free’ on the label. I cannot stress enough on these words, ‘read the label’.

If you’re not a huge fan of coffee (don’t say this out loud) and would fancy some tea instead, you may find the spectrum of herbal tea powder infused with spices interesting. The red ginger variety can get pretty spicy if served strong.

Herabl tea with infused spices on sale

Herabl tea infused with spices on sale

I was quite intrigued by the spiced chocolates so I bought a few bars. You don’t come across the words spice and chocolates together in the same sentence often but they seem to go well together. This is coming from someone who has very low levels of  spice tolerance by the way. The dark chocolate had a good aftertaste and the milk chocolate seemed alright in my opinion.

Bali Spiced Chocolate

Spiced Chocolate

If you are interested to experience some ‘guilt free’ Kopi Luwak, you may find this article interesting. Scientists have developed a way to produce Kopi Luwak without the faeces or the civet itself.

Have you been on a similar tour in Bali? What was your experience like?

Comestible regards,
Judy Sebastian

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