Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Biji Kopi Luwak - make sure you get the original one! Only from Indonesia ...
(Courtesy picture by Dr. Marcone)

Don't worry, it is safe to drink Kopi Luwak!

Elvera N. Makki, Contributor/Houston, Texas
The Jakarta Post, Features News - Friday, February 18, 2005

Do you dare drinking Kopi Luwak, a coffee which beans are coming out of Luwak's feces? Is it safe enough for your stomach?

"Yes, it is" said Adjunct Professor Massimo Marcone, a food scientist from University of Guelp, Ontario, Canada, "although the beans has passed through luwak's digestive system, my test shows that the counts of bacteria are lower on Kopi Luwak than on regular coffee. A strange finding but one that has been subjected to a repeated battery of scientific tests." he added.

Marcone has been studied about Kopi Luwak for two years. He traveled to Indonesia in 2003 and came back about a month a go for additional research.

“As a food scientist, I’m skeptical that anything being in contact with feces is safe,” said Marcone. “But tests revealed that the Kopi Luwak beans had negligible amounts of enteric (pathogenic) organisms associated with feces.”

In fact, the luwak beans on the market are quite clean. The local Indonesian collecting the beans perform an extensively wash under running water after collection, which dislodges bacteria.

He also analyzed that the “cherry,” or endocarp surrounding the bean, was not completely digested by the Luwak; hence, it must be removed during processing. "This likely leads to a more thorough washing process."

Including on his research was whether or not passing through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of the Luwak was in fact affecting the flavor of the beans, making it uniquely different from the regular ones.

So together with other members of his department, he completed a series of tests on the Kopi Luwak beans and compared them with Columbian beans, which were used as a control.
First, they examined if there was any color differences between unroasted samples of the two beans. Using a colorimeter – an instrument that detects different colors – they found that the Kopi Luwak beans had more red and yellow tones, whereas the control beans were more greenish in color.

Then, the surfaces of the two beans were examined using a scanning electron microscope. The Kopi Luwak beans were found to be smoother than the control, indicating that the gastric acids and/or enzymes of the Luwak were exfoliating the surface of the bean, explained Marcone.

Pitting was also observed on the surface, and the next step was to determine if the acids and enzymes were actually penetrating the Kopi Luwak beans, affecting them in some way.

Electrophoresis – a method that “fingerprints” proteins – was used to determine differences in the protein content of Kopi Luwak and control beans. The Kopi Luwak beans were found to be lower in total protein, meaning that proteins were partially broken down and leached out during their travel in GI tract of the Luwak.

This has the potential to affect the flavor and aroma of the beans because as we may all aware that proteins are responsible for much of the flavor, particularly bitterness. Since Kopi Luwak beans have less protein, they may produce a less bitter coffee, which for some people has made it a premium taste.

Analysis of the volatile compounds that also responsible for flavor and aroma also showed that they were significantly different than the control, further indicating the potential for Kopi Luwak coffee having a different flavor than ordinary coffee.

It’s also believed that fermentation process inside the luwak's digestive system could give the coffee a unique flavor, “More tests need to be completed, though, to determine if in fact a flavor difference is occurring.”

In the coffee industry, wet processed or fermented coffees are known to have superior flavor to dry-processed coffee, “When coffee cherries are processed through the digestive track, they actually undergo a type of wet processing due to acidification in the stomach and fermentation due to the natural intestinal microflora."

”The exceptional Kopi Luwak flavor could be due to the type of wet process the beans undergo in the luwak’s digestive tracks," he said.

On the last trip to Indonesia, Marcone was stationed in Padang (West Sumatra) but the plantation he visited was in Northern Sumatra.

He met few people including the owner of the plantation who has collected over seventy kilos of the beans for this year, and he actually also enjoyed collecting his own Kopi Luwak.

If the plantation owner he met was the same person who dealt with the US specialty coffee importer LJ Cooper Co., it must be a very good news for the company that the beans are finally about to ship in.

It is obvious that neither Cooper nor Marcone revealed the detail contact of the plantation owner with me or anybody, not even shared the exact place where the luwak's beans were found.

It is understandable since confidentiality is what matter most, considering exploitation of Luwak may occur if the name and place are disclosed.

How the luwaks eat the reddest ripest cherry and the time when they relieve themselves are very natural process. People who has a big obsession to make money out of it may jeopardize that process. They may start to breed the luwaks which has been avoided from the beginning. If this happens, no more exclusivity.

Marcone brought home some of the beans for additional research, "I will possibly publish another paper especially should there are any new findings but it will surely take time and need more research dollar." ended Marcone. (*written by vera makki - http://kopiluwakstory.blogspot.com/)

Finding Luwak's feces - Dr. Marcone explored Northern Sumatra jungle to support his research on Kopi Luwak
(Courtesy picture by Dr. Marcone)
'Kopi luwak', the world's most expensive coffee
Elvera N. Makki, Contributor/Houston, Texas
The Jakarta Post, Features News - Friday, February 18, 2005

Are you a coffee aficionado?

If your answer is yes, then you must try kopi luwak. It's the most expensive coffee you can buy here.

Another thing is, it is also the rarest coffee ever. You cannot find this in major cafes, even in Indonesia itself.

So beware of fake kopi luwak. When I was on vacation in Jakarta a couple months ago, I was intrigued by a kopi luwak advertisement in a well-known women's magazine.

Surprisingly, during the phone conversation with the marketing officer, he honestly explained that it was not genuine kopi luwak that his company was selling: It contained no kopi luwak ingredients. The company simply used the brand name solely for commercial purposes.

Kopi is Indonesian for coffee. A luwak (civet) is a tree-dwelling animal that lives mainly in Sumatran jungles, climbs coffee trees and eats only the ripest, reddest coffee berries.

Also known as Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, this animal digests the coffee beans in such a way that they turn out to be fully wrapped, clean and fairly intact when excreted.

It is not yet known how local farmers got the idea at the start to gather luwak feces, which contained coffee beans. Perhaps one thing that they did not expect was that they had found something valuable, which was to become an Indonesian best-seller.

At kopi luwak wholesalers, the unroasted product costs about US$250 per kilo while roasted beans may cost about US$600 per kilo. Several coffee shops sell it at a premium price of US$5 per cup -- beating the price of any other coffee for the same quantity.

"Of course, the rarity of this coffee has made it exclusive and pricey," said Lenny Cooper, the owner of LJ Cooper Co., an established U.S. company that provides world-class specialty coffee beans from around the globe, including Sulawesi and Sumatra.

The fact that luwak are not held in captivity and the way the beans are processed has made them extremely scarce.

"Only 250 kilograms of the beans are produced annually. My portion is around 40 kilograms," added Cooper, whose company has become the largest kopi luwak supplier in the United States.
Cooper mentioned that it took years to find a reliable, stable supplier of kopi luwak beans, which, unfortunately, is not Indonesian-owned but rather Daarhnour from the Netherlands; they put him in touch with the plantation owner in Sumatra.

From there, he has distributed the coffee to dozens of buyers, mostly in the western and eastern parts of the U.S., with his biggest client, M.P Mountanos Inc., located in Los Angeles.
"We have experienced a shortage of kopi luwak since last year. There has been no shipping for a couple of months," complained Cooper. "If I could get 10 tonnes of the beans, I would guarantee I'd be able to sell it all easily."

Cooper, who orders two tonnes of the beans every year, believes that importing kopi luwak is a very lucrative business, although it only contributes about 1 percent of his total business revenue, so that uncertainties over coffee shipment arrivals will not unduly affect his overall business.

"But I am not talking about total revenue here; rather, it is more about how to provide the most exclusive coffee to a niche market." said Cooper.

"I have been asked to sell robusta kopi luwak, which is cheaper. I refused to sell it: It's not the real thing!"

Furthermore, discerning customers would notice the taste, which is known to be uniquely earthy, musty and almost syrupy.

"I tried kopi luwak two years ago at a small gathering at my friend's house," said Maria Lopez, a Houstonian who describes herself as a coffee addict. "Frankly speaking, it was a no-no for me to drink a beverage made from animal feces; I mean, come on," she chuckled.

After her friend had roasted the beans, she could not help but try it. "The aroma was so damn good, very exotic, rich and strong."

"From the moment I sipped it, I knew it was Sumatran coffee, but it had a different flavor -- something between caramel and chocolate. It was very smooth as well."

It was a different story for Rinto Muhammadsyah, who tried kopi luwak at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"I was just curious to try the most sought-after coffee in the world. At least I had the experience of drinking it." (*written by vera makki - http://kopiluwakstory.blogspot.com/)

The professor with baby luwak, so cute! ( I mean the baby luwak) Posted by Picasa
Courtesy picture by Dr. Marcone