Vietnamese Kopi Luwak – the most expensive coffee in the world

Polina
Polina
Updated: 28 May 2019
Time to read: 17 minutes
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Kopi Luwak in Vietnam is a legendary coffee, distinctive feature of the country that intrigues even the most sophisticated coffee lovers. It is somewhat strange that the most expensive coffee in the world is being produced in one of the least expensive countries in South-Eastern Asia.


But first things first. It is nearly impossible for anyone who hasn’t been to Vietnam yet to picture this country as a “coffee country”, so it is imperative to check the bold statements of locals (that they grow and make the perfect coffee) before jumping to any conclusions.

Some tasty statistical data

Vietnam is a world leader of coffee production. Yep, nowadays always-leading Brazil takes second place in this race. So where did Vietnamese get this energizing drink? The answer is French. Along with bringing their love to the baguette bread, they also were the first to bring some coffee beans to Vietnam in 1857.

So modern Vietnamese are simply in love with coffee. However, tourists happily take their lead starting each of their vacation mornings with the cup of coffee and ice. Yes, they drink it really cold! Do not be so surprised – it is one of the features of the country, and you should definitely try it during your stay here. There are two main brewer types of coffee beans in Vietnam – Robusta and Arabica. Robusta coffee is considered more popular here, but usually these two types of beans tend to be blended in various proportions. Each manufacturer has their secrets – starting with the duration of roasting and going right to the additional ‘secret’ ingredients added to the blend.

And now let’s move to our star of the article – Kopi Luwak.

What’s so special in it?

It has many names – Kopi Luwak, Luwak coffee, civet coffee, – but its features are all the same. It is considered one of the most unique and valuable types of coffee in the world. Each coffee enthusiast definitely has heard of it at one point or another in his or her life, even if they haven’t managed to try it yet. Real admirers say that this coffee has elite, premium-class, soft and unique taste to it, with hints of caramel, chocolate and vanilla aroma. It is also the most expensive in the world, so it is worth trying…

Kopi Luwak for sale
For example, one cup of this coffee in Da Lat café costs approx. $10.

It is impossible to resist the desire to taste it if only once! But, perhaps, you would like to get to know this “elite coffee beast” closely. And, yes, there are some animals involved – little furry animals in particular. You may ask: “Isn’t it supposed to be about coffee?” Well, it is certainly hard to imagine how animals manufacture it. But there is the truth in the statement though. Not to mention some human specialists involved in the process.

“Elite beast of a coffee” or the Main Secret of Kopi Luwak

Asian palm civet – the “producer” of Kopi Luwak
Asian palm civet – the “producer” of Kopi Luwak

So, let me introduce this wonderful creature – its name is civet or Asian palm civet (“musang” in Russian). The main secret and the uniqueness of the famous Kopi Luwak are connected to this animal and extraordinary production technique.

These marvelous creatures eat coffee “cherries” that grow at the coffee plantations. Their stomach can digest only pulp of those fruits meanwhile the beans leave their body with excrements. Trained people gather raw beans, wash and dry them thoroughly.

It is safe to say that excrements of civet do not influence the beans at all – there is no residue smell or traces of them in the coffee. Otherwise, people would not drink that, paying such an expensive tab.

The main reason Kopi Luwak and civets are so valuable hides in the unique fermenting process, which takes place in the stomach of an animal. It draws bitterness out of the beans that are normally very bitter.

That is why this famous Vietnamese coffee has such unique taste and aroma.

Would you like to hear a traditional Asian legend?

It may shed light on the discovery of Kopi Luwak.

Civets
Civets are known to choose only the best coffee beans.

Terrible burden was placed upon a family of peasants: after the good harvest, wild civets ate all coffee “berries”. The family had nothing to sell. Pondering around the plantation Vietnamese discovered coffee beans that had not been digested by the civets, buried in the excrements of these animals – and as such, people managed to brew coffee using them. They were already at the poverty line, so the decision to wash and sell such beans was not a surprising one. And what a great profit it brought, when customers became acquainted with the new coffee flavor – so wonderful that they came to this family asking for more!

How do they make Kopi Luwak nowadays?

These days using the traditional way of Kopi Luwak production is not easy – the coffee “made in the wilds” is the most expensive one. Searching for and gathering the beans that way is difficult. That is why there are many farms, where civets are bred and fed with ripe coffee “cherries”. This process also costs a lot, not to mention hard work of the farmers and gatherers. All raw materials (civet excrements with coffee beans) are gathered without using any tech or machinery – people use their hands. Farmers also thoroughly wash each bean using their hands, and only after that coffee can be left to dry.

How to make this coffee in a right way?

Many nationalities use ibrik (cezve, small long-handled pot) or coffee machines to make a coffee. These methods got little popularity in Vietnam.

Vietnamese coffee pots with coffee, condensed milk and ice.
Vietnamese coffee pots with coffee, condensed milk and ice.

As with many other types of coffee, there is special ritual to make Kopi Luwak before you will be able to try it:

  • You will need a so-called fin – mini-brewer that reminds drip coffee maker. Basically it is a construction that consist of a small iron cup with holes in its bottom, a round saucer with holes, a press and a lid.
  • You need to put the saucer on your mug, and then put the iron cup atop of the saucer.
  • Put a small amount of coffee into the cup. Leave some place for the water.
  • Put a press atop, but don’t press it too much.
  • Pour hot water and cover the iron cup with a lid.
  • Then you have to wait – drop by drop, your coffee is going to fill the mug.
  • Drink and enjoy!

Of course, you can make Kopi Luwak using more common approaches, but for the sake of the Vietnamese experience we recommend to try this method if only once.

We already mentioned that traditionally coffee is served with ice in Vietnam. You can also add some condensed milk, if you wish. Local traditions also dictate to bring the guests cold green tea along with the coffee, so do not be surprised by that!

It is better to try Kopi Luwak without adding sugar, if you drink it for the first time – the flavor will be more distinguished this way. Don’t be in a rush! Imagine the time stopped around you. This is what Vietnamese do – they use to sit in the cafes for a very long time, drinking coffee and no rushing anywhere.

Where to buy Kopi Luwak in Vietnam?

Kopi Luwak is easy to buy in Vietnam, because it is very popular not only among the tourists, but locals as well. Not unlike other resort cities, the city of Nha Trang has lots and lots of small coffee shops and big coffee stores. You may find any type of coffee in there – the selection is astonishingly big. You may choose the specific type of coffee, ground or in roasted beans – everything is here to fulfil your wishes. There is also a possibility that while buying Kopi Luwak beans at the market stores you may be able to get it grinded right away. Fancy wrapping included! You may also ask for tasting the coffee first, not only stand there admiring the aroma. You will not have to buy it to try it, but will be able to tell if you want it right away. Try it and then buy it!

Kopi Luwak is also sold in the supermarkets, but the selection of it is not as rich as at the coffee stores.
You can read about shopping here:

What about the prices?

A jar of elite Luwak coffee
Kopi Luwak price can reach 1200 US dollars/kilo.

In Vietnamese city of Dalat you can find Kopi Luwak at 250 000 dongs for the cup.
In other countries, the prices vary from 250 US dollars to 1200 US dollars for 1 kilo of the coffee.

How much is Kopi Luwak? Well, that is a common question with no set answer. There are lots of producers and different types of it, so it is impossible to tell the exact price. It is also well-known that the place of your purchase can significantly increase or decrease the price even when you choose the same brand. However, do not worry – you will be able to pick the type with the reasonable numbers on the price tag and a good quality. It is impossible to be in Vietnam and not to buy coffee whether you are a coffee fan or not. If you are not, bring it home as a traditional souvenir – many tourists tend to do that.

However, if you want to try it, be well aware of the high prices – they may not empty your wallet altogether, but the price can be significant still. Nevertheless, it is worth it! Just imagine you are back at home, and you look at the grey clouds above the city, and suddenly you world changes with the unique aroma that instantly brings you back to sunny Vietnam. Even if just for a tiny moment, but it will definitely be pleasurable and bright.

Polina
Author
Polina
Since 2013, we live with a spouse in different countries, including China, the Philippines, the United States, and Vietnam. I dance, teach pole dance and write about our travel.
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