UBUD, Indonesia — It’s an unusual path for any foodstuff to take, but for Indonesian civet coffee, it’s the shizzle — literally.
At a resort restaurant on Hanoman Street (named after Hindu monkey god, Hanuman), southeast of the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, I was lured by the promise of an affordable cup of the world’s most expensive coffee, the ultra-exclusive kopi luwak (Bahasa Indonesia for “civet coffee”).
This particular blend gets its uniqueness from the path it takes through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), which is said to eradicate any bitterness contained within the bean.
In Jakarta, it costs 2.5 million rupiyah per kilo (roughly $275). For a fraction of that in Ubud, I could afford a taste of this pick-me-up.
Sure enough, the demitasse of steaming brown liquid was uncharacteristically aromatic for coffee. It had the slightest hint of a sweet, almost chocolate overtone to it, felt incredibly well-rounded on the palate and tasted smooth beyond compare. Although if I had to make a comparison, it would be close to the Bettina blend of coffee beans at Warung Tinggi (aka Tek Soen Hoo or Tek Sun Hoo).
Delicately complex, a whiff of sweetness and a gentle roasted flavor defined the brew, served in a tiny ceramic cup.
Later, I learned some Asian coffee producers have taken to chemically treating beans to simulate the effect of nature’s call. Not having had the chance to ask this restaurant to verify my drink’s authenticity — Is that even possible without witnessing it? — I chose to believe it was at least a close approximation of what Indonesia’s best coffee is like.