With its keen nose, the luwak sniffed the plant, carefully selecting the finest coffee cherries for consumption. Over the next 24 hours, the digestive enzymes worked on the cherries and when nature finally took its course, a keen eyed farmer was on hand to scoop up the little brown treasures the luwak left behind. After a quick rinse, the undigested cherry stones, otherwise known as coffee beans, were roasted, ground and packaged for sale. This labour intensive process is the source of the world's most expensive coffee. When in Bali, we decided trying luwak coffee was an opportunity not to be missed.
Tasting Luwak Coffee
We followed the track through the trees until we met our host with his trusty companion, a large fluffy luwak, cradled in his arms. Noticing the bloody scratches on his arms and neck, we concluded that luwak are not as cute and cuddly as they seem.
We were shown to a large wooden table overlooking the golden rice terraces. Our tasting board appeared soon after along with a large cup of luwak coffee. Eager to see what all the fuss was about, we savoured our first sip of this famous cat shit blend. We found it had a very distinctive flavour. It was particularly smooth and had none of the characteristic bitterness of the accompanying Balinese coffee, which was on hand for comparison. Also, unlike most Balinese coffee, it was better without sugar.
Coconut Caps Keep The Bugs Out
We then turned our attention to our tasting board, a selection of beverages presented in small glass cups, each capped with a piece of coconut to keep the bugs out. Balinese coffee is always consumed without milk so we were surprised to see several milky drinks in our selection. Due to the scarcity of cows, fresh milk is a rare and expensive commodity but it turns out that coconut milk is a viable substitute.
The Tea And Coffee Tasting Selection
Vanilla Coffee – An aromatic drink supposedly good for settling the stomach.
Coconut Coffee – Very sweet with a distinctive coconut taste.
Ginseng Coffee – We heard it should be consumed by men for extra 'stamina'.
Pure Cocoa – A poor substitute for hot chocolate. It definitely needed more sugar. It also required constant stirring to stop the cocoa from settling out.
Ginger Tea – Extremely warming with a powerful spicy flavour. Apparently red ginger is even more potent than the white ginger that we tried.
Lemongrass Tea – A little bland and not what we would have expected from such a flavoursome herb.
Mangosteen Tea – A pleasing purple colour. It tasted a lot like hot grape juice.
Pandanus Tea – Sweetened with cane sugar, this firm favourite tasted like liquid caramel.
Our Tasting Selection
As well as changing the flavour, the luwak's digestive processes remove most of the caffeine from the coffee. This makes luwak coffee a good, if expensive, low caffeine alternative to regular coffee.
How Much Does Luwak Coffee Cost?
A cup of wild luwak coffee could set you back up to $80. The luwak in Bali are battery farmed and fed on low grade coffee cherries, usually arabica or robusta. This coffee is much cheaper with one cup costing around the same as a latte from Starbucks.
Where Can I Try Luwak Coffee?
Just about every taxi driver in Bali will offer you the chance to stop at a luwak coffee shop for a 'free' coffee tasting experience. We visited Ceking Sari in Tegalalang.
Luwak Coffee and Balinese Coffee
How Free Is Free?
Most luwak coffee shops offer a free tasting board, which will include several varieties of tea and coffee. There will however be an extra charge for luwak coffee.
Although there is no obligation to purchase any extras, there is an expectation that you will buy something from their shop if you take advantage of the free tasting board.