A Taiwanese research team has found a way to mimic the flavor of civet coffee — a beverage traditionally produced from the beans of digested coffee cherries found in the scat of wild common palm civets in Indonesia.
The passage of the beans through the civets’ intestines is said to give the coffee a unique flavor which is highly prized by connoisseurs, and the resulting product sells for gourmet prices.
National Pingtung University of Technology and Science vice dean Hsieh Pao-chuan (謝寶全), who headed the team, said that due to the questionable authenticity of much of the civet coffee on the market, and the poor quality of beans produced by caged civets, beans that can be proven to have come from wild civets are the most highly prized.
On a field trip to Indonesia with a team of scientists from the university’s department of food science, Hsieh said he had managed to extract 136 strains of bacteria from the intestines of civets, and had isolated 16 which had particular effects on Mandheling coffee beans. The researchers monitored the changes with experiments using gas chromatography.
After seven years of experimentation, Hsieh and his team managed to perfect a process for treating beans that produced “civet coffee” from the laboratory.
According to Hsieh, the lab-produced civet coffee has a strong aroma of fruit and flowers, and tastes of caramel, cinnamon and chocolate, adding that the coffee had a fruit-like hint of acidity in its aftertaste.
Fermentation of the lab-produced civet coffee is entirely managed by the lab and takes between 16 and 24 hours, Hsieh said, adding that compared with the original, their product is more sanitary and has only half the caffeine content.
The laboratory is currently pricing its “civet coffee” at NT$4,000 per 0.45kg, Hsieh said, adding that if the lab found ways to mass-produce it the price would drop.
Coffee shop owners said that at the price the team is currently asking, each cup of coffee would cost about NT$100, making the beverage a luxury product.
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