President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has raised a few eyebrows with his choice of a gift for the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during the Indonesian president’s state visit to Australia.
Kopi luwak or civet coffee comes from the rear end of a small furry animal found in the jungles of Indonesia and quite a few other countries in the region.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Prime Minister’s aides immediately and possibly ungraciously handed the unopened packet over to AQIS, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service for a once over.
Kopi luwak is the rarest, the most expensive and most fabled coffee in the world. Selling for prices of $1,500 a pound or more in the United States and 50 pounds a cup in London , it’s also the most counterfeited.
A few years back I went to the mountains of Sumatra to track down the source of kopi luwak for the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program.
Yes, kopi luwak really is the poo of the common palm civet, a small weasel-like animal found across Asia and Africa.
This is what it looks like “fresh” from the forest floor.
And this is where it comes from.
Jenny was the first civet domesticated by brothers Joko Basuki and Susanto when they set up their luwak farm at a secret location in the mountains near Lampung. Sadly I had a message recently from Joe to tell me that Jenny had died, but her fellow luwaks were still hard at work consuming the luscious red coffee cherries at the front end and producing kopi luwak at the other.
Sorting the precious beans from everything else that emerges is not the world’s most glamorous job.
So what can Kevin Rudd expect from his precious gift?
This is how I described the taste for ABC online at the time:
“The aroma is smoky and pungent and even somewhat reminiscent of its immediate origin but the flavour is unique, mild and smooth with a hint of rich dark chocolate and secondary notes of earth and musk.”