was successfully added to your cart.
Category

Coffee & Sustainability

drawing of asian palm civet or luwak

Kopi Luwak: civet coffee aka the infamous poop coffee

By | Coffee & Sustainability, Info Pills

What is Kopi Luwak?

 

Kopi Luwak literally means palm civet coffee in Indonesian and, even though it is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, it is elegantly known as “poop coffee”. Originating in Indonesia, it is also produced in the Philippines and Vietnam.

The palm civet is a shy and nocturnal animal sometimes described as cat-like (in fact, it is occasionally called civet cat) but more poetically, perhaps, as the hybrid mix of a “bastard love child of a ferret and a lemur … with your house cat”. Its diet usually consists in plenty of juicy fruits as well as the odd insect and reptile here and there.

But most importantly for us, the luwak has a sweet tooth for coffee cherries, of which is said to pick only the best and ripest, guided by its amazing sense of smell. Then, after a day, a day and a half, the coffee beans come out the other end almost intact but, of course, covered in faeces.

And that’s when things get interesting.

Humans walking around the jungle look for the civet’s droppings and collect them, then wash the beans, process them and sell them for a whole lot of money. Voilà: Kopi Luwak.

How much money exactly are we talking about?

 

How much does Kopi Luwak cost?

 

Kopi Luwak generally costs up to 300 dollars per kg although some high-end brands sell it for 2000 dollars a kg, like Ross Kopi from Indonesia. Not too shabby for crappy coffee!

Why is it among the most expensive coffees in the world?

Wild Kopi Luwak is quite rare with only small quantities processed each year. In theory, the luwaks roam freely and eat at night away from prying eyes, so for a farmer stumbling around fresh “produce” in the jungle requires a good knowledge of territory but also quite a bit of luck.

And of course wild civets are also not going to chew truckloads of coffee just so people can make drinks from their scat. Unless their forced to, but this is a topic for later.

Next question is: what makes it so special?

By Jack [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

 

What does Kopi Luwak taste like?

 

The flavour of Kopi Luwak is mainly defined in terms of earthy and musty with hints of caramel and chocolate and some people throw around the word “jungle” as if it were a flavour descriptor.

Apparently though, for the poop coffee enthusiasts, the taste depends upon a number of factors such as tree variety, soil type, seasonal fruits eaten by the civet, so that each small batch is unique.

Above all, what makes Kopi Luwak special is the fact that it’s ingested, digested and defecated by the palm civet.

How does this influence the flavour?

First of all, as we said before, the civet is thought to be particularly picky in regards to the cherries it eats and choosing the most mature fruits is the basis of a quality cup.

Secondly, the fruit undergoes a fermentation process during the animal’s digestion where enzymes break down some of the protein contained in the bean. Because protein is the element that gives coffee its bitter flavour, the result is supposed to be a smooth cup of coffee without any unpleasant aftertaste.

 

What does coffee taste like? Learn how to use the Coffee Flavour Wheel

 

Is Kopi Luwak safe to drink?

 

While indeed the beans collected from the excrement show higher levels of contaminations, the processed beans are quite safe to drink with no contamination from e.coli or other bacteria.

But is Kopi Luwak worth its price?

By surtr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

All that glitters is not gold

 

Not everyone agrees with the hype about Kopi Luwak. In fact, it has received some harsh critiques by esteemed reviewers.

After a taste test, renowned cupper Rocky Rhodes of International Coffee Consulting Group reportedly said “it was apparent that Luwak coffee sold for the story, not superior quality”. More explicitly, Andrew Hetzel, from the Specialty Coffee Association of America, writes that “Kopi Luwak coffee is a gimmick, a fairy tale fabricated to sell gullible consumers bad coffee at extraordinarily inflated prices”.

Ouch!

 

Kopi Luwak and animal cruelty

 

It would appear that while removing the bitter taste, the luwak’s digestion also lowers the good acidity and flavour. With Kopi Luwak, all the attention is given to one step of a process that should consider the quality of the bean, the terroir, the harvesting and so on. Achieving a smooth cup cannot be the exclusive defining element for a quality coffee.

What’s more, the novelty aspect of this coffee has had dire consequences for these little animals. As demand rose, people started caging wild luwaks in confined spaces, often in dismal conditions, feeding them only coffee cherries. The consequences are stress, illness, and a higher mortality rate for the animals.

There is still no way of telling for sure whether Kopi Luwak is from wild or caged civets and no official wild luwak certification, even though some efforts are being made in this direction, by organizations, farmers and even the guy who introduced Kopi Luwak to the West. On the other hand, a lot of what is sold as original Kopi Luwak just isn’t.

 

Conclusions:

 

It is really up to you whether you want to try one of the most expensive coffees in the world, with the risk of it being either fake or made by exploiting caged civets. You can also try looking for responsible, sustainable farmers that will ensure wild and humane coffee, although these projects are still  veryfew.

But above all, would you try it?

11 amazing ideas to recycle used coffee grounds

By | Coffee & Sustainability

All around the world people consume millions of cups of coffee every day — 94 million cups a day in the UK alone!

But what to do with all the leftover coffee grounds? Let them accumulate in landfills?

Starbucks, for example, has been offering theirs to customers for free with their Grounds for Your Garden program since 1995.

Instead of thinking about them as waste, used coffee grounds can be a valuable material for many household uses: in your garden, for beauty products, for arts and crafts projects.

So, read on and discover fantastic ideas for using spent coffee grounds around your house!

 

In the garden

 

In compost

Coffee grounds are a good source of organic material and are rich in nitrogen so they are great for your compost. They can be considered as green material in a similar way to grass clippings.

Compensate with brown material such as sawdust, leaves, paper or cardboard. Make sure you mix them with other green material: a diverse feedstock will ensure a diversity of microorganisms. Too much will actually be harmful to bacteria and worms.

Beware:

don’t add too much coffee grounds to your compost bin or it might have detrimental effects. Linda Chalker-Scott, MasterGardener at Washington state university, suggests as an optimal amount 10 to 20% of the total volume and not more.

What about using coffee grounds directly on cultivated soil?

As mulch

Chalker-Scott advises against using pure coffee grounds for mulching.

First of all, because coffee grounds are easily compacted, preventing air and water for seeping into the soil.

Secondly, even though experiments in the lab have shown enhanced sugar beet seed germination and improved growth and yield of cabbage and soybeans, it is not known what their effects are in the field.

In fact, decomposing coffee grounds can release toxins that might even inhibit plant growth and seed germination of most plants. They could actually be good against weeds.

So, don’t use pure coffee grounds as mulch, especially directly on plant roots.

Instead, try using a thin layer (no more than half an inch) of coffee grounds and cover with a thicker (four inches) layer of coarse organic mulch like wood chips.

 

Against slugs and pests

You might have heard that coffee grounds are great for keeping slugs and even cats from messing around with your precious garden. While this is most likely unverified information, using a spray solution with 1-2% caffeine on leaves does indeed kill off most molluscs.

 

Against odours

 

Used coffee grounds can be used to absorb odours. Just place them in an open container at the back of your fridge or freezer and forget about them as you collect more used grounds. Empty the container after a week or so.

You can even use them around the house or in your car. Let them dry first by spreading them on a baking tray. Then, place them in a stocking and tie a knot making it into a ball. You can wrap the stocking around the grounds more than once to make sure the coffee doesn’t seep out.

Moreover, you can keep a bowl with coffee grounds near the sink to rub your hands with to get rid of the smell of garlic or fish.

 

In your beauty routine

 

As a scrub

Use as a natural scrub on its own or mixed with a bit of honey and coconut oil. It’ll be more delicate on your skin than non-natural exfoliants and you won’t be polluting the environment with nasty microbeads.

As a facial

Coffee has astringent and antioxidant properties which make for a great toner reducing redness and tightening the pores.

Mix the grounds with milk or heavy cream until you get a paste and gently rub it on for a minute. Then sit back and relax for another 20.

Remember:

stay away from the area around your eyes where the skin is thinner and more delicate.

Against cellulite

Beware of coffee scrubs as magical “cures” for cellulite. Cellulite is a change in how the fat under your skin is shaped making it look lumpy or dimply like an “orange peel”. Almost 80 to 90% of women have cellulite and it is not a disease in any way but many dislike the way it looks.

Unfortunately, even though caffeine has been shown to break down fat cells in (really) high concentration, it’s very difficult to make it reach those cells through topical creams.

The good news is:

coffee grounds body scrubs do seem to reduce the appearance of cellulite for a week or so after use. Caffeine’s astringent properties tighten up the skin while exfoliating increases microcirculation plumping up the skin making cellulite look less obvious.

 

Coffee scrub soap

Why not use the exfoliating properties of coffee grounds in a delicious smelling soap?

It’s easy!

Melt 225 grams of glycerin soap into a metal and glass bowl placed on top of a pan with boiling water, creating a double boiler. While the soap melts thanks to the vapour’s heat, lightly grease some muffin tins or prepare your molds.

When the soap has melted turn off the heat, add 25 grams of coffee grounds to the melted soap — you can add more or less depending on how “scrubby” you want it!

Now, you can also add essential oils like vanilla and a bit of coconut oil to make the soap softer on your skin if you like.

After mixing everything thoroughly, you’re ready to pour the mixture in your molds. Be careful as it’s still hot.

Once they’ve completely hardened, pop the bars of soap out of the molds. Wrap them in parchment paper for the perfect gift for coffee lovers!

 

For arts and crafts

 

Wood staining

Using coffee grounds for wood staining is incredibly cheap, simple and gives you a nice organic effect.

You’ll need a jar, some steel wool, gloves and, of course, your used coffee grounds.

Place the steel wool in a jar with a small amount (2-3 tablespoons) of vinegar, water to cover it and the coffee grounds. Leave to soak for at least two hours, but overnight works best. Of course the more you leave it in the darker the stain will get!

Why use steel wool and vinegar?

The iron will dissolve in the vinegar creating a solution (iron acetate). The substance reacts with the tannins in the wood making it darker. This allows the coffee stain, that would fade away quickly in sunlight, to be durable indoors and outdoors.

Once the solution is ready apply a coat of stain to the wood, either with the steel wool itself or with a paintbrush. Use gloves for this step as it can get quite messy!

Let dry for 20-30 minutes and repeat. To have a darker stain you can repeat the process, but wait for each coat to dry first as the stain looks darker when wet.

Paper staining

Coffee grounds are a great way to create an aged paper effect for greeting cards, an antique notebook, or a pirates’ map!

Place coffee grounds in a tray and fill with boiled water. Let it steep for 5 minutes. The intensity of colour depends on the amount of coffee grounds, but you can always go back and add more.

Add a sheet of paper to the tray and let it sit for at least five minutes.

When the paper is a shade lighter than you’d like it to be, take it out of the coffee. It will darken as it dries.

Hang it to dry or lay it on a sheet of plastic. Be careful at this point as the paper is fragile when wet. I suggest using paper of a heavy quality for best results.

Once dry press it under a pile of heavy books to flatten it.

 

Easter egg dying

Dying hard-boiled eggs for Easter is a fun family tradition, a great way to spend time with your kids involving them in a creative activity — especially if it’s green and safe!

You can use natural dyes from all sorts of products you can find in your fridge or pantry, like spices, fruits and vegetables for different colours.

One of them is coffee grounds!

To give your eggs a natural brown shade mix one cup of coffee grounds with one cup of boiling water in a jar. Add one spoon of vinegar to set the colour. Dip in the hard-boiled egg and leave to steep for not more than an hour or the colour might start to seep through the shell.

After the egg is dry you can rub it in cooking oil to give it a nice shine!

Experiment with the quantity of coffee grounds for different intensities. And you’re ready for Easter!

 

Now, you’re ready to go forth and create something from (almost) nothing!