Civet Coffee

By TheHindu on 02 Jan 2017 | read


Have you heard of civet coffee? It’s considered pricey and pretty rare. Listen to the cat…

Dear Aristotle,

Lady Baya weaverbird has put me in a spot. Or should I say, in the spotlight.

I am a shy guy, a loner who is happy being with himself. Since I stir out of tree hollows or bushes only at nights, I rarely encounter people or other animals. Few outside of South East Asia have seen me though many may have heard of the absurdly expensive coffee known by my name. More about that later!

First, let me tell you about myself though I do not know what to say. Oh dear, how embarrassing is this! Anyway, I shall do my best. Civets belong to the Order of cats and there are a number of species found across the world. I belong to one known as the Asian Common palm civet and as the name suggests, I am arboreal. Like the weaverbird, I too love a sip of toddy. Of course, that’s not all I feed on. I am an omnivore though a large part of my diet is fruit.

My favourite

You are curious about me. How do I look? I am as big as a domestic cat; my tapered, slender tail is as long as my body. My shaggy long black or brownish fur appears striped on my back and gives me an untidy appearance. I have found a haven in the coffee plantations in southern India. I would rather write about the place than about me.

At mid elevations of about 1000 m, on the wet slopes of the Western Ghats grow rich varieties of coffee. The plantations stretch for miles in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Not only do they produce excellent coffee beans but also provide home to hundreds of species of small animals and birds. You must visit a coffee plantation to understand why it has such a vibrant eco-system. To protect coffee plants from the direct rays of the sun, many shade trees are grown alongside. These intercrop may be evergreen canopy trees, fruit or spice plants. Pepper and cardamom plants and mango, orange and jackfruit trees provide home and food to thousands of birds and animals.

I am particularly fond of ripe, red coffee cherries. I wait and watch as the white, fragrant bunches of jasmine-like flowers bloom and wither in a few days. Then come the berries, green and round. I still wait. Then when they turn red and juicy, I gobble them skin, fruit, bean and all! There are generally two beans in one cherry. One side is flat and the other spherical. Sometimes there is only one bean. He is a big, round fellow known in the coffee world as peaberry. But as far as I am concerned, one bean, two beans — it doesn’t matter. It just passes through my system, undigested. In many plantations, they collect these ‘processed’ beans, wash, dry and roast them to be sold at mind-boggling prices as civet coffee or kopi luwak.

That’s it from me!


Reply from Aristotle

Did you know that Black Ivory Coffee, made from beans that go through the gut of an elephant, is more aromatic, more enjoyable and more expensive than your kopi luwak? Civet, you have to come up with a new improved version of your coffee!