Our last activity for our first day in Bali was our favorite: a visit to a Kopi Luwak farm in Ubud.
Kopi Luwak is coffee made from raw coffee berries that have been digested and defecated by the Asian Palm Civet. In simple terms: Kopi Luwak is cat poop coffee… although I just found out recently that the civet cat is NOT a cat. This is like the whole “Hello Kitty is not a cat but a British little girl” issue all over again.
Kopi Luwak is regarded as the most expensive coffee in the world, priced at around USD 600 – 700 per kilogram. Luckily, curious visitors can try this one-of-a-kind concoction for a fraction of the cost. Just visit one of the many kopi luwak farms in Bali, particularly in Ubud. The one we visited is called Alas Harum Agro Tourism.
Aside from being a kopi luwak farm and plantation, Alas Harum also grows various plants, fruits, and spices that are used to create teas and coffee of varying flavors.
Entrance to the kopi luwak farm is free! One of the staff took us on a tour of the place, showed us all the features in the farm, and explained to us the process of making the kopi luwak. Like many Balinese people we encountered, our tour guide was very warm, accommodating, and soft-spoken.
He led us to the area where the civet cats or luwaks were contained.
The civet cats look like a cross between a cat, a possum, a raccoon, and a baby fox. In other words, they were SO CUTE!
It broke my heart a little though, seeing them caged like that. There is a controversy surrounding the production of kopi luwak. It’s been said that caged civet cats are force fed immoderate amounts of coffee berries to keep up with the increasing demand for kopi luwak. Our tour guide assured us, however, that they only feed their civet cats what they can manage to digest. I do hope this is true!
Our tour guide asked us if we wanted to try feeding the cute little critters, and of course, I said yes! It was really fun! I noticed that the civet cats were quite eager to munch on the coffee berries, instead of being repelled by it — a good sign that perhaps, they were not being force fed, after all.
The civet cats we encountered also did not show signs of stress. They interacted with us and even seemed like they were happy with the attention they were getting from us. I think that every time I gushed, they were enjoying it!
Although the civet cats in Alas Harum were kept in a cage, it was a relief, at least, to see that the cages were clean and big enough for them to move around. The luwaks weren’t packed like sardines, and they were separated from each other, which means that the chances of them having a “cat fight” was very slim.
I wasn’t able to ask about this little guy though. I’m not sure why he was kept in this tiny box… and close to the bee hive too! Not a very good location, if you ask me!
So how is kopi luwak made? First, it starts with this coffee tree producing coffee cherries. You’ll know that the coffee cherries are ripe and ready for harvesting when they’ve turned from green to bright red.
Our guide picked out two coffee cherries straight out of the tree for me and Mike to try. It had a distinct and mildly sweet taste, less sweet than the usual cherry fruits. It also wasn’t as juicy as I thought it would be, and tasted like dried fruit. I also needed to chew it slowly because the texture, especially the middle part, was quite tough. But I could imagine why the little civet cats would enjoy munching on this! (By the way, have you ever wondered what your fart would smell like if you ingested a lot of these cherries?)
These coffee cherries are then fed to the civet cats. These coffee cherries stay in the digestive tract of the luwaks for about 24 hours. During the digestion process, the meat or pulp of the coffee cherries are removed. However, the coffee beans (or the seeds) are not digested. At this point, fermentation happens in the civet cats’ stomach, which then leads to the coffee beans having its unique flavor.
24 hours later, the civet cat finally poops out the coffee beans. This poop is considered the most expensive shit in the world. Of course, while the poop has those delicious, sought-after coffee beans, it also comes with other “unwanted stuff.” Take a look at the leftmost tray in the photo below. Those beans are dark, brown, and clumpy because they still come with, um, other things that you wouldn’t want in your coffee. (If you want a closeup of what they look like, just google “Kopi Luwak Poop“)
Once the civet cat feces are collected, the coffee farmers then filter the beans and weed out the quality ones from the inferior ones, wash them, and let them dry out in the sun so that the skin is easier to remove later on.
Next, we go to the “Roasting Place” where the transformation happens.
The next step to perfecting the kopi luwak is to pound it with this giant mortar and pestle. Pounding is done to make it easier to remove the skin of the coffee beans.
Remember what I said about the coffee cherries having a tough texture? Well, this picture proves that! The beans are hard so they need to be hammered this way.
After one more round of washing the coffee beans, they are slightly roasted to remove their bitter taste. The reason why these beans only go through mild roasting is to retain its original flavor, as much as possible.
The finished product is kept in a jar and displayed for all visitors to see, along with saucers of different kinds of spices used to make their teas or blend with coffee.
And this is the luwak coffee after going through a coffee grinding machine. It’s kind of hard to imagine that THIS once passed through a civet cat’s butt. Just try not to think about it.
Kopi luwak produced by female civet cats are more rare and more expensive because their digestion and fermentation process takes much longer than that of the male civet cats.
Although you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to go inside the coffee farm, you do need to pay IDR 50,000 (around PHP 170 – 180) for a cup of luwak coffee, which is a teensy tiny amount compared to what you would usually pay in a five-star restaurant. And if that’s not good enough for you, you also get a FREE cup of regular coffee so you can compare it with the kopi luwak.
I’m sure you are wondering, “So what does CAT-POO-ccino taste like?” First, there’s one important thing to remember: the taste of one batch of kopi luwak may differ from that of another batch. Why? Because it all goes back to the coffee cherries they eat. By nature, the better the quality of the coffee cherries the luwaks ingest, the better the taste of the final output would be. I don’t claim to be a coffee connoisseur so I can only tell you what Mike and I thought about the kopi luwak we had during that time in comparison to the regular coffee. There was definitely a difference. Kopi luwak had a smooth taste and light body. It had a stimulating flavor, which I would describe as fresh and earthy. It was also undeniably much less bitter than the regular coffee, and had very little aftertaste. It was certainly delicious and Mike really liked it. Up to this day, he still tells me “I miss kopi luwak!” However, I honestly don’t think that the difference in taste is worth the outrageous price tag. It’s coffee fit for a king, sure, but I’ll settle for my cheap but satisfactory commoner coffee.
But wait! There’s more! What? No entrance fee, a free cup of regular coffee, an opportunity to taste kopi luwak for a measly IDR 50,000 and THERE’S MORE? I’m not SHITTING you. There IS more. Now you know why this tour is one of our favorites in our Bali trip!
One of the best parts of this tour is getting to taste the many different flavors of tea and coffee FOR FREE!
And no, I’m not talking just a teaspoonful. You get 8 CUPS of tea and 6 CUPS of coffee! And most of them were absolutely delicious that Mike and I had a thirst for them (literally and figuratively) for days after that free tasting.
So that we would know what we were sipping, a sort of “cheat sheet” was given to us, indicating the different flavors of tea and coffee in front of us. The flavors that really stood out for us were the Mangosteen Tea, Rosela Tea, and Coconut Coffee, but other flavors were pretty yummy too. Others, however, like the Ginger Tea, were a little too strong for us and left a scratching feel in our throats, while some like the White Chocolate Coffee were good but a bit too mild. But overall, the teas were flavorful, refreshing, and unforgettable! We had some leftovers but we almost finished everything. We got drunk on coffee! Yummy!
The coffee and tea tasting, plus the free tour of the kopi luwak farm, were such fun and great experiences that we would have gladly paid for it. In fact, Mike and I were saying that we couldn’t believe that the tour was free, and that they could actually charge for this. Not complaining though! I guess SOME of the best things in life are still free!
By the way, inside the coffee farm is a small shop where you can purchase the different kinds of teas and coffee. We were really tempted to buy (especially our favorites!) but we weren’t sure yet if we wanted to go shopping already on our first day in Bali. We had 11 days to go and we needed to make sure that we could stretch our money for the duration of our stay!
Before leaving, we went around to take more photos of the place.
I am ending this blog post with a little reminder…
…and another one.
Alas Harum Agro Tourism
Address: Jl. Raya Tegallalang, Ubud, Gianyar
Phone: +62 85792 466 220, +62 81999 814443
How to Get There: Rent a private car with driver / guide. I recommend Galih Bali Tour.
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