A climbing Palm civet

Some of the most expensive coffees in the coffee business come in the form of specialty coffees produced on the different islands and nations found throughout southeast Asia. Kape de Motit, Kopi Luwac, Kalinga brew, and Mananig Wild coffee are all fine examples of some of the exotic coffees that fetch top dollar. Unlike other costly brews, these asian specialty coffees are not unique because of the soils they grow in, the climates they come from, or because of some special breeding of the plants. These coffee beans are in demand from coffee suppliers because of their extreme smoothness, lack of bitterness, and one of a kind flavors. These flavors come from the unique natural processing of the coffee fruits or cherries as they are known, a processing that has nothing to do with any human touch.

Among the native wildlife of the asian nations where these exotic coffees are grown, there are small mammals in the civet family that like us, like to consume coffee. Asian Palm civets look like a three-way cross between a cat, a weasel, and a raccoon, but they are actually more closely related to the mongoose. There is not just one species of palm civet but several with each often being limited in it range to only one particular island or habitat. So how does a native, tree climbing, insect and fruit eating, small mammal figure into the production of the world's highest priced coffees? Palm civets are the processors of the coffee beans as there is nothing quite as discernible as a palm civet's nose when it comes to picking out the best quality coffee cherries. And it is not just their ability to choose the best coffee fruits but also that they then eat these fruits which pass through the civet's digestive system being partially digested along the way. That's right, these specialty coffees that can cost over $100 dollars a cup, are processed by the bowels of palm civets to be deposited in their feces on the forest floor. Coffee farmers then collect the droppings, clean the coffee beans, sun dry them, and roast them just like any other prepared coffee beans.

The coffee cherry consist of a fleshy fruit surrounding the central bean. As the fruit passes through the civet's digestive system the outer flesh is digested away and the bean itself is then acted upon by digestive juices and enzymes. It is believed that this is what gives these gourmet coffees their signature aroma and flavors along with the fact that the beans being partially digested are not heavily roasted. By lightly roasting the coffee beans none of their characteristic flavors are hidden or over powered. Due to the high prices paid for these gourmet coffees there is now a farm industry based on the use of caged palm civets for the processing of the coffee beans. Unlike wild palm civets that are free to roam, finding and eating coffee cherries that only meet their own high standards, farmed civets are often forced to consume whatever coffee fruits they are given. There are also reports of coffees being sold that are chemically processed to simulate civet coffees. It is best to thoroughly check out any coffee business or coffee suppliers before placing orders from either online coffees or mail order coffees.

Motit coffee from the Philippines is processed by the Philippine palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus philippinensis) and in 2009 a lb. of the ground beans sold for over $1400 in the US. Kopi Luwak coffee, produced mainly in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi, is derived from the droppings of various species of palm civet and sells for around $600 a lb. According to coffee business records, Japan and the US are the biggest importers of civet coffees with the Vietnamese being the top per capita drinkers of these specialty coffees. There have never been any reports of illnesses due to any of the civet coffees and studies have shown that the roasted civet coffees have no higher pathogen counts than regular roasted coffees. So the next time you and your friends at work are discussing the boss during an office coffee break, consider getting the boss a gift coffee basket. You can all pitch in together to order a very small bag of specialty coffee from online coffee suppliers in southeast Asia.


Palm Civet a specialty coffee worker
Coffee cherries ripening