The World's Most Expensive Coffee
Sophisticated. Mysterious. Flavoursome. Coffee is an amazing beverage with an equally fascinating history. Coffee beans come from all corners of the earth and for the fanatics who fancy their brew, they can go almost anywhere and be guaranteed that they will find a café serving their favourite style and blend.
Not surprisingly, global coffee culture has driven demand for ever increasing blends, varieties and complexities. Indonesia is no exception; it is the world's third largest coffee exporter and is famous for its Arabica beans.
But it's not just the Arabica bean that has the coffee enthusiast excited. Found in the three major Indonesian coffee-producing islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, the "Kopi Luwak" (civet coffee) is regarded as the rarest and therefore the most expensive coffee on the global market. At approximately $A950 ($US780) a kilogram, you could be paying up to $A50 ($US40) for a single shot of coffee!
To put things in perspective, only a few hundred kilograms of these rare beans are produced each year.
So what's all the fuss about and why are these elusive coffee beans so rare? The answer lies with the local fauna. The palm civet, a cat-like mammal, consumes - among other fruits - coffee cherries. The civet digests the outer layer of these cherries and then excretes the coffee beans. This might not sound particularly appetising, but according to Massimo Marcone, a scientist at Canada's University of Guelph, the internal fermentation by the civet's digestive enzymes adds a unique flavour to the beans. They have been described as "earthy, musty, syrupy, smooth and rich with jungle and chocolate undertones". Many people also comment on the unique absence of any aftertaste.
In the Food Research International journal published by Professor Marcone, he notes that the coffee beans are significantly transformed by the civet digestion process, resulting in harder, darker, more brittle beans. These changes are caused by various digestive biochemicals in the civet's gastrointestinal tract that penetrate the outer layer of the coffee cherry and reach the actual bean surface.
As always, however, the proof is in the tasting. If you are up for the premium of trying this slightly unusual brew, then you can be the judge. The Hervey's Range Heritage Tea Rooms near Townsville are now selling Kopi Luwak. At $A50 a cup, it's been billed as Australia's most expensive coffee.