Kopi Luwak is a variety of Indonesian coffee with a well-deserved reputation. The beans are hand-selected by experts and undergo a totally unique process of collection, ultimately giving them the title of World’s Most Expensive Coffee. Tourists to the Indonesian island of Sumatra have the opportunity to go to a plantation and learn about the coffee on-site. Samples, pictures of the collection and brewing process, and a walk around the area are all available in a small village outside of Bukit Tingi, however there also exists a surprise for those who aren’t previously familiar with the coffee and it’s curious existence. The coffee beans are hand-picked by special selectors, but they aren’t human hands doing the selecting.
The Asian Civet Cat is a small cat-like animal which lives in the same areas in Indonesia where Kopi Luwak can be found. These animals are special in their ability to determine which coffee cherries are the best and have the highest quality bean inside. They live wild in the jungle around the villages (although there is an unfortunate trend now to capture the animals and use caged civets) and select their favorite beans which are heralded as the best. How do they do the selection? By eating the best cherries, of course. How are the beans then collected and made into the coffee which people will pay a college fund to drink?
After the cats eat the cherries and subsequently poop out the beans inside, collectors recover the beans from the jungle floor and turn them into liquid gold. Not only do the civets select the highest quality coffee to eat, but the digestion that the beans experience inside of the cat supposedly grants it a better flavor along with medicinal properties. Although there is the modern use of caged civets, some farms, like the one outside of Bukit Tingi, still profess to prefer the natural method of allowing wild civets to leave the beans around the jungle because of the belief that wild civets are less stressed and therefore lead to the best cup of coffee.
Nearby the coffee shop outside of Bukit Tingi lives another weird wonder of the world. The flower genus Rafflesia produces some of the world’s largest flowers which can only be found during short and spontaneous blooms. As parasites, they attach themselves to vines and take nutrients from the host plants in short duration before dying off, not to be seen again until a new year and a new location. Because of their parasitic nature, a species of the Rafflesia flowers has even lost its chlorophyll, making it one of a very small group of plants to have done so.