Civet Coffee Beans

The New York Times examines America’s desire for coffee beans derived from the dung of civets — otherwise known as the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world — and how that demand is driving a new industry in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Competition is touching off fierce debates. What is real civet coffee, anyway? Does the civet’s choice of beans make the coffee? Or is it the beans’ journey through the animal’s digestive tract? Can the aroma, fragrance and taste of beans from the droppings of a caged civet ever be as tasty as those from its wild cousin?

Vie Reyes, whose Manila-based company, Bote Central, entered the civet coffee business five years ago, said she bought only from harvesters of the wild kind. Ms. Reyes exports to distributors overseas — Japan and South Korea are her biggest markets — and also directly sells 2.2-pound bags for $500, or about $227 a pound.

Maintaining quality was a constant challenge because distinguishing the real stuff from the fake was never easy. One time, harvesters sold her regular beans glued to unidentified dung.

Anyone that is already aware of Civet coffee beans, there’s nothing much new in the article, though the back room politics developing around a coffee bean found in shit is fairly funny.  As is this:

Alberto Pat-og, 60, a retired school principal, said he did not understand why foreigners were willing to pay so much for a cup of the stuff.

“We are a bit surprised,” he said. “A bit perplexed.”

His son, Lambert, 20, added, with a big grin, “We are ignorant.”

The Pat-ogs wished they could expand their business but said there were simply not enough civets around. Compounding the problem, farmers around these parts tended to trap civets, which also have a taste for chicken. Local residents still prized civets less for their coffee-picking ability than their meat, which was typically dried before being prepared adobo-style.

“It’s very difficult to convince my neighbors not to kill civets because they’re considered such a delicacy here,” the father said.

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  • Wholesale Coffee April 23, 2010, 5:37 pm

    I really have to get over my aversion to this and just try it. I know I would enjoy it, but I can't get over the mental image of the civet.

    • jamesfurbush April 23, 2010, 6:42 pm

      I really wish I had the money or knew where to purchase some. I think I just want to try it once, see what the big deal is.