The Quest For The Most Expensive Coffee In The World

Jakarta, Indonesia

Luwak Coffee Is The Shit, Literally

A bunch of Payday candy bars -- wikipedia

Amazingly enough, the most expensive coffee in the world comes as a product of an animal’s digestive system (aka ‘poop’). Then again, considering how much pearls cost and the fact that they are nothing more than a fleck of dirt covered in a mollusk’s slobber, maybe it’s not that amazing. Maybe, we just tend to put values in stuff covered in animals’ bodily fluid :p

I’m not a big fan of pearls, or gross food in general, but coffee that has come out of an animal’s behind? That — that, I think I can handle.

Meet The Coffee Pooper

-- wikipedia

Luwaks, a raccoon-type animal endemic in Indonesia just love to eat those yummy coffee berries. The flesh of the berries is consumed while enzymes in their digestive track dissolve the outer layer of the beans and naturalize the acid inside, but fortunately not the beans themselves.

And the luwaks simply… well… poop these beans out looking not unlike ‘Payday’ candy bars.

The resulting coffee is said to have very little acidity, making for a very smooth and unique coffee drinking experience — as long as you don’t over-think too much about where it comes from.

The Quest

How can a country so famous for its coffee have such a big love affair with instant coffee?

We thought the quest to try what’s supposed to be the most expensive coffee in the world was going to be easy an easy one: we’re in a country world-renown for its coffee, and my parents already took care of the hardest part: getting a packet of 100% Luwak coffee beans during my mom’s visit to Sumatra, one of the coffee producing islands in Indonesia.

My parents were mighty proud of themselves for getting ahold of these priced beans, and they told us about how gourmet it’s supposed to be while sipping on a cup of instant coffee. The irony, truly was lost on them.

So, all we needed were a coffee grinder and a coffee machine. But finding a coffee grinder turns out to be much, much harder than we expected. There’s an almost-unhealthy obsession that this country has with instant coffee.

At a grocery store we counted 22 different types and brands of instant coffee.

22!

I guess that’s why there’s no market for a coffee grinder… there’s nothing to grind!

3 days we searched for a grinder. We went to the obvious places: supermarkets, ACE Hardware stores, specialty coffee shops, and specialty household supply stores… to no avail.

The last day before our departure date we were on the verge of giving up. We went to check out a recently opened mall in Jakarta, the Grand Indonesia — true to its name it was the grandest and fanciest mall I’ve ever been to. If you ever want to shop for Chanel, Prada, and other brands where a purse can equal the GDP of a small African country — this is where you need to go!

We visited every single coffee shop in the mall. Nope. Nada. No grinders. ‘Bring the beans here, we’ll grind it for you.’ ‘No, thank you. We’re looking to buy one.’

On the way to the food court, we passed an electronic center selling flat screen TV’s, game consoles, and etc. As we walked past the housewares section — well, whaddaya know? Right there on a shelf right next to the aisle we saw what could possibly the ONLY burr grinder in Jakarta!

Woo hooo!! Success!!

luwak coffee in indonesia
What could possibly the only burr grinder in the country -- Jack and Jill Collection

The result:

brewed luwak coffee

Well, not including the grinder we had to buy, that cup of coffee cost about $12! — a tad more expensive than your daily Starbucks. It’s been said that some coffee shops charge anywhere from $20 – $80 a cup of Luwak coffee.

So, what were our first impressions after tasting the most expensive coffee in the world?

Jill’s mom: ‘Ugh… it’s bitter
Jill’s dad: ‘Ouch, be careful it’s really hot
Jill: ‘It’s good, I guess — is it me or does it smell a little poopy?’



Jack: ‘Is this weird that we’re all drinking from the same cup?’

No, honestly
The coffee did have a clean after taste and had none of the acid, bitterness that regular coffee seems to have. It had a strong and very distinct wood-y kind of aroma to it, almost as it had been sitting in a wood barrel of some sort for some time. I didn’t care for it too much at first, but it only took me a couple of sips to get used to it.

It was definitely different, but whether or not it’s worth it — it’s hard to say (I mean, I know I said I don’t like gross food, but I do love durians). So you’ve just gotta try it out for yourself. Just don’t over think too much about where the beans come out of.

So, knowing where Luwak coffee comes from, would you drink it?

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31 Replies to “The Quest For The Most Expensive Coffee In The World”

  1. Now they are making coffee in the same manner but from elephant poop. We had it last November in the Maldives and it’s touted to be the new world’s most expensive coffee. It was definitely interesting!

  2. I tried it last October at a plantation in Bali. It was really rich and full bodied. I normally have coffee with cream because I don't like the acidic bite of coffee. Luwak definitely has less of that. If I could only get over the source of the beans… maybe it was made worse because the animals were sitting near me when I tried it.

  3. I'd give it a go. My question is though, how did they come to know about this new type of coffee and did they have to go through many other types of "poop" to decide upon the best?

  4. One of our good friends grew up in Indonesia and served us a taste a while ago.

    My husband is a Portland coffee connoisseur (i.e., "snob" 😉 ), and the experience of drinking the beverage of such myth and legend was enjoyable, but as it turned out, he wasn't overly impressed with the actual coffee itself.

    As much as he was eager to try the new drink the first time around, he sadly neglected the freshly imported bag of luwak beans we were later given…

    + for the gotta-try-it experience
    – for the overall rating

  5. I am not a coffee drinker because I don't really like the aroma and taste of it. Maybe this will be an interesting stuff for those who love starbucks! It's a bit gross because it came from somewhere right, but it's just like eating an exotic food. The experience of trying it can be a great thing for a coffee lover.

  6. JESSS! I would try it in a heart beat.
    I tried it once in one of the Excelso cafe in Senayan City. It was so fancy with the distillation process however, I don't trust the taste. It was like the regular Nescafe coffee and so weak… . I don't blame the coffee, I blame the distillation methode. I don't trust Excelso coffee anymore :P.

    But if you guys have info of where I can get them, grind or not, I'd love to get some.

  7. haha and I thought I would go to any lengths to secure my caffeine fix, you two really went all out, a quest no less daunting than the one for the holy grail by the sounds of it!

    so with buying the grinder that cup of coffee really did come out expensive ……. ummm just hoping they wash the beans first!

    Thanks for sharing

  8. My brother and I were just talking about this yesterday. He saw some documentary on it….both Shawna and I LOVE great coffee, and will be searching for it throughout our upcoming trip; I have no doubt we would both definitely sample this…the best part of waking up, is Luwak poop in your cup!

    1. Haah, you guys are funny 🙂 Jack and I love coffee… the darker the better usually. But the luwak was one of few light roasts that I actually enjoyed.

  9. the first i heard of this was on a tv show here in australia called border security. horrible show about airport customs. they werent letting someone bring in a couple of boxes of this coffee because it had come been pooped. since then, ive always wanted to try it, but unfortunately havent.

    i hate instant. i hate that instant coffee is taking over third world countries. nestle and companies like that must buy the beans, make them crap and put them in a jar, then sell them back at exorbitant rates. which, is pretty much what the animal is doing really. except it sounds delicious!

    1. I'm not shocked. I used to live in Aussie for 2 years and they do have veeeery strict custom policy, something to do with it being so isolated. There was this one person behind me going through custom and he brought back a… bongo-like musical instrument with a leather cover. They made him cut off the leather, rendering the instrument completely useless. Not to mention that the traditional stitching was what makes it special, you know? Tsk.

  10. Funny 🙂

    Ryan was obsessed with it (well, still is), so yeah, we tried this luwak poop, I mean the coffee bean embedded in luwak's poop, several times. And yeah, we love it. It's not acidic like normal coffee. We just hope they wash clean the pieces of beans, or all nasty stuff is gone by roasting.

    One question comes up though: Who is the person that figure this out? How did this guy find out? Why did he ever think about processing and drinking coffee that is covered by poop?

    1. Seriously huh? Well, what I read was: back then the coffee plantations were owned by the Dutch and they forbid the locals from eating/using the beans. And I guess, they really, really needed coffee or something and noticed these animal scatterings with intact beans embedded in tehm. And well, they gotta have their coffee, and it was better than nothing 🙂

  11. I had some kopi luwak in Surabaya. Very tasty, and as you said, very little bitterness. Had it in a coffee shop so I didn't have to search for a grinder.

    I can believe that you had a tough time finding a grinder, though. Most Indonesian kitchens have hardly any appliances beyond a stove and, maybe, a fridge. Anyway, it's cheaper to have your servant do things the old-fashioned way than buy a gadget to do it.

    1. Lol, my parents don't have a maid anymore and I think they'd rather swallow the beans whole than grinding them themselves with an 'ulekan'.

  12. I'm a bit of a coffee snob, so I'd definitely have to try it. The instant coffee thing is funny, though if I'm being honest – Asia has given me some of the worst coffee of my life!

    1. Yes to the worst coffee in my life in Asia. It was in a nice restaurant of all places — on a breakfast buffet (maybe that's why?) and I couldn't even make myself finish my coffee.

  13. I usually have a pretty low tolerance of gross food too, but I was very curious about the coffee. Luwak coffee is light roasted and it's supposed to preserve the natural taste of the beans itself. I must say it was quite a pleasant taste. Still don't know if it's worth the price 🙂

  14. How cool that you tried this…I saw a doco on it and was wondering if it would stand up to the hype. The instant coffee thing is funny. Growing up in the States it was a shock to me when I went to Asia for the first time and then moving on to Australia found it again. Not sure if I would try the Luwak coffee…I'm a little grossed out by it.

  15. Pingback: Fresh From Twitter
    1. It is interesting. I read about the story of how they first discovered this…. apparently the local farmers employed by Dutch-owned coffee plantation were really upset that they weren't allowed to use/drink the coffee from the plantation. And they noticed that this animals scatterings basically have intact beans embedded in them… and somehow, I guess, they must be real big coffee addicts, decided that it's better than nothing, and voila! Luwak coffee was discovered.

  16. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I've also noticed the instant coffee phenomenon throughout the developing world. Wow that animal is ugly.

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