Its origins might put off some coffee drinkers, but an exotic bean that draws top dollar from connoisseurs is plucked from animal droppings.
Not just any animal. The coffee comes from beans eaten but undigested by the palm civet, a nocturnal, fruit-eating cousin of the mongoose that roams tropical forests.
Civet coffee, which some aficionados consider among the world’s best, sells for as much as $300 US a pound in the United States. Only 550 pounds are produced worldwide each year, says Antonio Reyes, executive director of the International Coffee Organization Certifying Agency.
Although they normally eat sugar palm nuts, civets prefer the ripest coffee cherries during harvest season, which runs from December into March, but the beans pass through their systems undigested and are deposited as sausage-like clumps onto the forest floor.
Reyes says the civet’s digestive process, particularly the enzymes in its stomach, probably gives the brew its distinctive flavour and aroma.
“It’s a special type of post-harvest processing. It has been processed in a very natural way,” he says.
Smelly or not in the forest, civet coffee in the cup has a “chocolatey aroma and the taste is bold and nutty,” says Alvira (Vie) Reyes, a businesswoman who has branched into selling the exotic beans. Other fans describe civet coffee as full-bodied with medium acidity and no bitter aftertaste.