One of the most expensive coffees in the world features coffee beans that begin in the stomach (and later, the excrement) of a tropical Asian mammal.
Kopi luwak comes from coffee cherries hand-picked from the feces of the palm civet, a nocturnal, ferret-like creature.
If you want to enjoy a cup of this interesting brew, you’re going to pay an extremely high price. So what is the kopi luwak coffee price?
Kopi luwak coffee is priced high because it comes from the partially digested coffee cherries excreted by civets. It requires a tedious harvesting process and laborious farming methods. This coffee costs up to $1,300 per kilogram. There’s a high demand and low supply, further increasing the price.
This article explores the costly process of creating kopi luwak coffee, the factors that affect the price, and whether this uncommon coffee is worth the extreme expense. Read on to learn more.
The expensive process of making kopi luwak coffee
Kopi luwak coffee has an interesting process from beginning to end, and it starts with the Asian palm civet.
Though many people refer to the civet as a “civet cat,” this small, nocturnal, tropical mammal is actually more similar to a mongoose than a feline.
Despite this, people continue referring to kopi luwak as “cat poop coffee,” though this does not accurately describe the product.
The civet consumes the sweet, ripened coffee cherries from coffee plants. Approximately a day later, the civet defecates, revealing the highly-valued, partially digested remnants of the cherries.
These digested coffee cherries are used in the production of kopi luwak.
Though it sounds unappetizing and unsanitary, the harvesting method is exactly what makes kopi luwak so expensive. I’ll discuss the harvesting process in more detail later in this article.
How much does kopi luwak coffee cost?
In 2022, kopi luwak was considered the most expensive coffee in the world. In fact, coffee connoisseurs go on trips abroad just to try this rare cup of joe.
Indonesia produces the majority of the world’s kopi luwak coffee. The country boasts numerous coffee plantations, which have become major tourist attractions.
Visitors can enjoy a cup of this unique coffee for as low as $4. Outside of Indonesia, however, the prices skyrocket, as shown in the chart below:
|Quantity of Kopi Luwak||Indonesia||Outside of Indonesia|
|Cup of Coffee||~$4||$35-100|
|Farmed Beans (per kg)||~$30||~$200+|
|Wild Beans (per kg)||~$60||~$600-1300+|
These prices are based on 100 percent pure, authentic kopi luwak. However, according to Lafayette College, up to 70 percent of kopi luwak sold is inauthentic.
Most versions on the market are blends; those containing as little as 1 percent kopi luwak may legally use “kopi luwak” in the name.
Why is kopi luwak coffee so expensive?
There are many reasons why kopi luwak costs so much, but the primary reasons are the challenging harvesting and farming methods, as well as supply and demand.
Kopi luwak harvesting methods
Below are the harvesting methods used to collect the cherries, including their downsides.
Wild collected berries
Collecting partially-digested cherries from civet excrement is a long, tedious process and not exactly an enjoyable one.
Not only must workers locate civets, but they must then find and collect the dung. This is quite an uncomfortable process, especially in the unforgiving heat of Indonesia.
Once they’ve located civet excrement containing coffee cherries, the workers sort through the poop, hand-picking the ripened, partially digested cherries.
After hand-picking the beans from the civet poop, workers wash, dry, and roast the beans. This creates the delicious, fragrant, dark coffee beans that are later packaged to sell.
Sometimes, they even grind the beans to sell ground coffee (or to brew cups of coffee for their shop, if they own one).
Even farmed berries require quite a bit of intensive labor. Farmers must work hard to grow coffee plants to supply civets with ripened cherries for consumption.
They keep civets on the plantation, and once the cherries are ready, they feed them to the caged civets.
After about a day, the workers collect the excrement. They remove the berries from the feces and wash, dry, and roast the beans.
Unfortunately, the farming method is far less ethical than the methods used for wild-collected berries. The conditions in which the civets are kept are often cramped and unsanitary.
There are many arguments against kopi luwak coffee by animal rights activists because of the inhumane treatment of these animals.
Kopi luwak supply and demand
Rough estimates claim that around 1,100 pounds (499 kg) of wild kopi luwak is produced annually.
Farmed kopi luwak is estimated to produce 100,000 pounds (45,360 kg) per year.
However, a paper published by the Ontario Agricultural College contests these numbers, suggesting that only 500 pounds (227 kg) total of authentic kopi luwak is manufactured each year.
It doesn’t matter which numbers you believe — they’re scarce in comparison to demand either way, which significantly impacts price.
That, in combination with labor and “superior taste” (according to some) are several factors that affect kopi luwak’s high price.
Kopi luwak quality
Indonesian kopi luwak producers claim that the partially digested coffee cherries provide superior quality coffee beans.
They explain that civets opt for only the best-ripened coffee cherries. After consuming them, the digestive process ferments the beans, removing some of the bitterness and acidity, resulting in a smoother drinking experience.
Not only that, but the exterior fruity shell of the coffee cherries completely digests, preventing the growth of mold.
Is kopi luwak worth the price?
Whether or not kopi luwak is worth the price is a matter of opinion. There are several different topics that play into the value of kopi luwak, including flavor, price, and your opinion on animal rights.
Kopi luwak flavor
Although kopi luwak coffee beans come from the excrement of a mammal, many coffee drinkers describe the flavor as distinctive, smooth, rich, and delicious, with notes of caramel and cocoa.
Others claim that it has a highly unique taste, attributed to the digestive enzymes of the civet.
The fermentation that occurs during the digestive process reduces some of the natural bitterness of the coffee beans and the sugar content of the ripened cherries adds additional complexity.
The lack of bitterness and acidity and the extra sweetness are what some coffee drinkers claim to dislike about kopi luwak.
They explain that a balance of bitterness and acidity is what makes coffee worth drinking and kopi luwak leaves something to be desired. As such, kopi luwak may not be the drink of choice for those who prefer a strong cup of joe.
Many critics claim that people don’t buy kopi luwak because its flavor is “better” than other coffees, but because it’s been hyped up by the tourism industry as a mysterious, exquisite beverage.
In reality, they argue, it’s just coffee beans picked out of a mammal’s poop. They recommend spending your money on other types of coffee, such as barrel-aged coffee, if you’re looking for complex flavors and a unique experience.
Inauthentic kopi luwak
Occasionally, you’ll come across coffee drinkers who claim to have tried authentic, blended, and fake versions of kopi luwak.
Some of these people claim they’re completely unable to tell the difference between the three.
Because of this, they say that the high price isn’t worth paying since it’s difficult to tell the difference between a $30 cup of coffee and a $3 one.
Others claim that it’s not worth it to try the coffee since it’s increasingly difficult to find 100 percent authentic, ethically-sourced kopi luwak.
Kopi luwak ethics
Most of the arguments against whether kopi luwak is worth the price surround animal rights and the inhumane treatment of Asian palm civets. Some activists have recommended boycotting kopi luwak altogether.
The civets used in these massive farming operations are often kept in terrible conditions and force-fed the coffee cherries with access to no other nutrition.
This leads to many adverse health effects.
Civets are also highly susceptible to stress. By nature, these mammals are solitary, so being confined and in such close quarters with humans and other animals makes them highly uncomfortable.
Many become mentally ill in these types of environments and show severe signs of distress, such as compulsively chewing on limbs.
Unfortunately, the mortality rate of civets in these farming operations is very high.
The thing about farming kopi luwak is that it completely takes away from the “natural” aspect of the coffee.
The entire idea behind the “superiority” of the product was that wild civets foraged for the ripest cherries in the area, processing the beans through their digestive system.
With farmed beans, workers are choosing the cherries and force-feeding the civets, thus eliminating the process that made the coffee so valuable in the first place.
Most coffee connoisseurs agree that if you can — with 100 percent confidence — find an ethical, sustainable supplier of wild kopi luwak (and have the money to spare), then you should absolutely sample the coffee at least once in your life.
However, if you have any doubt as to the authenticity of the beans or the ethics of the company, then it’s best to steer clear.
This is the best way to avoid supporting an operation involved in shady business tactics or the abuse of animals.
From an economic standpoint, there’s no way to find an inexpensive cup of authentic, wild kopi luwak unless you’re willing to travel to Indonesia.
The scarcity and high demand drive the price through the roof, making it difficult to get your hands on the coffee without putting a sizable dent in your bank account.
Unfortunately, because of the exclusivity of kopi luwak and the push toward tourists, there’s been a massive uptick in misleading and inauthentic products.
If you can find a genuine, ethical supplier of wild kopi luwak and have the money, then it may be worth a try.