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Civet Coffee

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)
The Asian palm civet (also known as the common palm civet, musang and toddy cat) is found from the India and Sri Lanka through southern China and the Southeast Asian mainland to Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Philippines. It is a highly adaptive animal and can live in dense forests, agricultural areas and even alongside humans. It inhabits forests, parks and suburban gardens with mature fruit trees, fig trees and undisturbed vegetation.

The Asian palm civet weighs 3-10 pounds (1 to 5 kg). Its average length is 17 to 28 inches (43.2 to 71 cm) and has a tail length of 16 to 26 inches (40.6 to 66 cm). Its ears are small and faintly pointed, as is its nose. It has a long and slender body with short legs. It has a coarse grayish to brown coat with black-tipped guard hairs over all. Three rows of black spots run along each side of its body. The hair around its eyes, cheeks and muzzle is black, with spots of white under each eye and on each side of its nose. The ears, feet and end of its tail are also black. The markings on its face resemble a raccoon's. Its tail does not have rings, unlike similar palm civet species.

The Asian palm civet is frugivorous and omnivorous, meaning it eats fruits, vegetables and meats. It mainly eats berries, fleshy fruits, and the fruit of Ficus trees. It is picky about the fruit that it eats, picking only ripe fruit. It will also eat birds, rodents and insects.

They are very fond of palm sap and typically found in palm trees, which is they got their common name, "palm civet". The sap is used by natives to make a sweet liquor called "toddy", which gives the palm civet its other common name, "toddy cat". It is also fond of coffee cherries, resulting in one of the latest crazes - civet coffee.

How Civet Coffee Is Made
The civet (Luwak) can only digest the outer pulp of fruit, passing the coffee beans unharmed through their digestive systems. Workers quickly harvest the beans from the civet's feces before rain can dissipate them. The beans are then shelled from their parchment membranes, washed, and very lightly roasted to preserve the complex flavors. It is sold as caphe cut chon (fox-dung coffee) in Vietnam, Kape Alamid in the Philippines and Kopi Luwak (civet coffee) in Indonesia.

Because of how its rarity, due to the fact that the beans can't yet be produced in mass quantities, Kopi luwak is the most expensive beverage in the world. Kopi luwak sells for more than $100 per pound in Indonesia and Malaysia. The beans are also marketed internationally. You can find it at Edible.com. Click the "Herbivore" link under the "Departments" heading on the left side of the page. Then, click "Civet Coffee" from the right side of the page to buy it. It will cost you 22 British pounds (about $45 US dollars) per ounce plus 12 British pounds (about $25) for postage.

How It Tastes
Kopi luwak is reputedly the best of all coffees because palm civets pluck and eat only the most perfectly ripe cherries. It is also believed that enzymes in the stomach of the civet add to the coffee's flavor by breaking down the proteins that give coffee its bitter taste.

University of Guelph food scientist and adjunct Prof. Massimo Marcone examined the chemical and physical properties of Kopi Luwak coffee. He found that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of the Luwak was in fact affecting the beans. He discovered that the slow passage through the bacteria and enzymes in the civet's GI tract is similar to a method of fermenting coffee called "the wet process", including the use of the same agent: lactic acid bacteria.

Working with the African civet (Civettictis civetta) and later with the Indonesian civets, Prof. Marcone observed that the beans are slightly digested during their passage, to the extent that an enzyme process has broken down some of the proteins allowing them to leach out, resulting in a less bitter coffee.

Marcone points out that the Indonesian civets' digestive system did a much more thorough job of breaking down the proteins than did that of the African civets. Another surprising discovery - despite the unusual fermentation path, roasted Kopi Luwak beans had lower bacterial counts than the Columbian control beans.

Those who have tried it describe it as rich, hearty flavor with a hint of a caramel or chocolate undertone that is quite delicious with no noticeable bitter aftertaste. Other terms used to describe it are earthy, musty and exotic. The coffee is almost syrupy and reputed to be very smooth.

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