A palm civet sampling its favorite caffeinated fruit.
Has the world’s most expensive coffee . . . been pooped out by a cat?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Forget your $6 Starbucks mochacchino blizzard latte. Really gourmet coffee is over $100 a pound!
And did I mention the beans first passed through the digestive system of a cat? Okay, I'm fibbing; the animal is only catlike
Meet the Asian palm civet. It loves coffee too—or, at least, the fruits of the coffee plant, which it eats. After digesting the fruit's outer pulp, it, uh, excretes the bean. Which is then eagerly gathered for cleaning (yay!), roasting, and marketing to people with too much money. Did I say that? I meant people with discriminating tastes.
Naturally, the economics of palm civet coffee make it vulnerable to counterfeiting.
Enter chemists from Japan and Indonesia. They analyzed extracts of twenty-one beans from three different coffee-cultivation areas. Turns out, true civet beans had measurably different values of various acids and of the carbohydrate inositol. Meaning it's possible to tell real civet beans from fakes without even a taste test!
Shoot—there goes my cat's extra income. Sorry, Professor Fluffernuts.
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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.