When a Kopi Luwak coffee bean, the world’s most expensive coffee, comes out the other end of a large cat after it’s been eaten by the animal – called a civet or Luwak – the micro-structural properties of the beans are altered, according to new research by a University of Guelph scientist published in Food Research International.
They’re harder, more brittle and darker in colour than the same type of bean that hasn’t been eaten and digested by the three- to 10-pound tree-climbing animal found in Ethiopia and Indonesia. “The changes in the beans show that during transit through the civet’s GI track, various digestive biochemicals are actually penetrating the outer coffee cherry and reaching the actual bean surface, where a chemical colour change takes place,” said Massimo Marcone, author of “Composition and properties of Indonesian palm civet coffee (Kopi Luwak) and Ethiopian civet coffee.” Marcone is an adjunct professor in the Department of Food Science.
Marcone travelled to Ethiopia and Indonesia in 2003 to collect the rare coffee beans that cost $600 a pound. “During the night, the civet uses its eyesight and smell to seek out and eat only the ripest coffee cherries,” he said. “The coffee cherry fruit is completely digested by the Luwak, but the beans are excreted in their feces.”
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