Balinese Coffee Hype
The Most Expensive Balinese Coffee
When I first heard about the Balinese coffee that costs 300 plus dollars a kilo, I was in disbelief. I was even more flabergasted when I found out why it costs so much: because a small animal called a luwak eats the beans and poops them out, which is supposed to make it taste better (not because of the poop but because of the digestion process).
So while in Bali this spring, I decided to go to one of the many coffee plantations on the island that produce luwak coffee. The place I chose was on the outskirts of the popular city of Ubud. It was a small operation that also grew and processed spices such as tumeric and cinnamon and it was set up to receive curious tourists.
Touring the Plantation
Upon arrival, I was greeted by a friendly Balinese man dressed in traditional garb who was almost overly pleased to have visitors. After showing off some coffee and spice plants (as well as a giant spider), it was off to their small coffee processing station. There, I saw how the coffee was handled after being pooped out. It was cleaned thoroughly, roasted over an open fire and then ground up mortar-pestle style.
I was impressed with the entire operation except for one part: the luwaks that were resting somberly in their tiny cages. I hadn’t realized that these poor animals were locked up for most of their existence so that these plantation owners could produce their 300 plus dollars a kilo coffee. For some reason, I had idealized the process and imagined that the producers were running around in the jungles and forests of Bali hot on the poop trails of luwaks running free. But this was not the case, at least not at the plantation I visited.
The Taste of Luwaks Poop in My Java
At the end of the tour, I was given the opportunity to try the coffee. If I were of a higher moral character, I probably would have refused so as not to help perpetuate what I considered a form of animal slavery. But I couldn’t say no to this intriguing opportunity. So I tried it, for 5 dollars for a small cup; and it tasted like… coffee, regular old coffee.
Later, I would find out that many in the coffee business consider kopi luwak (the Balinese name for this coffee) to be a scam. Research and tests have been carried out on the effects of the digestion on taste and the results are inconclusive. I guess it’s just one of those things the curious must try for themselves. Arranging a tour is as easy as asking any taxi driver or tour operator pretty much anywhere on the island.
Written By DJ Johnson
DJ Johnson is a traveler and storyteller who believes that both stories and travel can and do change people’s lives. After years of undergrad and postgraduate study, he decided to devote his life to exploring and sharing the world. He has made a few documentaries on Mexico and is currently finishing an anecdotal and lightly academic book of travel writings from his extensive travel and residency in this country.