If you're paying $225 a pound for civet poop coffee, you want to make sure you're getting the real sh ... deal.
Some say that the taste of the world's most expensive coffee beans, which pass through the digestive tracts of Asian palm civets when they eat coffee cherries in such countries as Indonesia, has an incredibly smooth taste. Once the small, rodent-like mammals excrete the beans, they are cleaned, wet-fermented, sun-dried and roasted.
The coffee is sold in stores in Southeast Asia and is available online for anywhere from $150 to $227 a pound, making it an ideal target for fraud.
You would feel terrible if you thought you were buying civet poop coffee and instead you ended up with some regular crap. Fortunately, Asian scientists say they have developed a way to authenticate civet coffee, according to a study published online July 27 in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
"The methods currently employed by Kopi Luwak [Indonesian for civet coffee] producers is sensory analysis including visual and olfactory testing, both of which are inadequate," the researchers say. "For example, visual examination is only possible for green coffee beans prior to roasting, and very few trained experts can perform the highly subjective sensory analysis to discriminate Kopi Luwak." In other words, right now experts can only use their noses and eyes to determine if coffee beans came out of a civet's butt (the process is said to make the beans smoother and to change their color somewhat).
The scientists say they have found a "metabolic footprint" that allows them to verify real Kopi Luwak. The unique chemical fingerprint reflects higher levels of citric acid and malic acid as well as unique ratios of other acids. This fingerprint is the result of the chemical process of digestion and can be detected by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Using this process, the scientists were able to tell the difference between real civet coffee, "regular" coffee, fake civet coffee, and even a half-civet, half-regular blend.
Researcher Eiichiro Fukusaki, a professor in the biotechnology department at Osaka University in Japan, says the method of authenticating the coffee could eventually be widely used, after some technical improvements are made. It could even tell if regular coffee beans had been "watered down" by throwing some Kopi Luwak beans in there.
But if you prefer your coffee poop-free to begin with, you have nothing to worry about.