Can you duplicate civet cat processed coffee without the civet cat? (most expensive coffee in the world if you were wondering)
Sometimes I find a bit of biology outside the environmental realm too good to ignore.
Indonesia produces the most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak. What makes this coffee so unusual is that the beans are processed in the digestive tract of civet cats. In theory, the cats eat only the best beans detected by their sense of smell. Once consumed, the digestive acids, enzymes and intestinal bacteria all work in concert to process the bean making the resulting coffee bean have exceptional smoothness once roasted. The beans had to be collected from the civet poop for washing and eventual roasting. With demand for the coffee increasing and producers wanting to cash in on the $200+ per pound coffee, they have been experimenting with civet cat houses where they force feed coffee beans at a higher rate than would naturally happen. Besides being cruel to the animals, it is costly and inefficient. So, in steps some enterprising scientists....
At a company called, Afineur, researchers have attempted to duplicate the civet cat treatment process in a controlled, bioreactor environment. This way special enzymes and microbes can work to reduce the bitterness and create a similar experience to the best Kopi Luwak coffee. After appearing in an issue of Wired Magazine in 2014, it appears that the company is starting to sell the coffee.
What is interesting to me is the use of natural microbes and enzymes to simulate the animal digestive tract. This type of simulation is aided by ongoing research into digestive tract microbes, enzymes, and biochemical interactions in both animals and humans. As we learn more about this process, even more unusual applications of food processing by fermentation will probably be mentioned in the press.
Erik Rumbaugh has been involved in biological waste treatment for over 20 years. He has worked with industrial and municipal wastewater facilities to ensure optimal performance of their treatment systems. He is a founder of Aster Bio (www.asterbio.com) specializing in biological waste treatment.
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