Would You Drink Cat Poo Coffee or Kopi Luwak, a Local Coffee Delicacy in Bali?

Balinese are crazy about coffee, especially Kopi Luwak or what I call, cat-poo-cino, a local and highly sought after delicacy made from Arabica coffee beans produced from cat poo! Kopi means coffee in Indonesian and Luwak is a local name of the Asian Palm Civet, a cat-like creature originally from Sumatra.

A golden civet or luwak enjoying some bananas at the Uluwatu Temple market
A golden civet or luwak enjoying some bananas at the Uluwatu Temple market

What is Kopi Luwak?

The civets select the best coffee cherries to consume, in this case, Arabica coffee beans mostly for the fruity fleshy pulp. Their digestive mechanisms are stated to improve the flavor profile for the coffee beans because they ferment these partially digested coffee beans. These coffee beans are later excreted and collected by farmers and processed by washing, roasting, and finely grinding to prepare kopi luwak. Kopi luwak is known more for the novelty of the process than for its taste and it is called “one of the most expensive coffees in the world with retail prices reaching US $700 per kilogram” or around $80 for a cup. Kopi Luwak is currently the second most expensive coffee since the most expensive coffee is the Black Ivory Coffee, a local Northern Thailand delicacy made from poop by elephants consuming the same type of Arabica coffee beans. These can be fetched for “US $1,100 per kilogram” and only sold in luxury hotels and cafes.

Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is also produced in the islands of the Philippines, East Timor, and Vietnam, but all have different names and prices associated with it. There has been some debate on the ethical methods on how kopi luwak is produced. PETA and other animal rights activists claim the production of kopi luwak is unethical because farmers would lock up civets in battery cages and would force-feed them. Caging civets prohibits them from roaming wild to enjoy their natural habitat and by having limited mobility, they ultimately become stressed, which reduce the quality of the coffee beans.

Here’s a little snippet from the movie “The Bucket List” about what kopi luwak is all about.

How Kopi Luwak is Produced

Step 1. Civets consume the cherry beans. It takes 24 hours to fully digest in their stomachs before they are excreted along with other byproducts like seeds, nuts, and coffee beans.

Civets are nocturnal creatures that feast on coffee cherries and defecate the coffee beans which create kopi luwak.
Civets are nocturnal creatures that feast on coffee cherries and defecate the coffee beans which create kopi luwak. 

Coffee cherries the civet consumes, but cannot fully digest.
Coffee cherries the civet consumes, but cannot fully digest.

Step 2. Feces from civets are collected, dried, then separated to individual beans and washed. A considerable amount of weight is reduced here as nuts, seeds, and bad beans are separated out.

The excreted feces with coffee beans that cannot be digested by the civet
The excreted feces with coffee beans that cannot be digested by the civet

Top left, luwak poop in a clump, bottom separated into individual coffee beans.
Top left, luwak poop in a clump, bottom separated into individual coffee beans. Middle right, vanilla beans.

Step 3. Once the coffee beans have been washed, they are left to dry in the sun for a few days so the papery parchment around the coffee been can be easily removed. It is washed and dried again.

The outer parchment is removed from the coffee beans shown here.
The outer parchment is removed from the coffee beans shown here.

Step 4. The coffee beans are then roasted over the fire on a cast iron wok for an hour or more, constantly stirring to get a deep dark color and to extract strong bitter flavors. The coffee beans reduce in size through this process.

Woman roasting the coffee beans.
Woman roasting the coffee beans.

Step 5. Once the coffee beans are done roasting, they are placed in a pestle and mortar and are grounded up coarsely. It is then sifted out for impurities and grounded more finely.

Different phases the luwak coffee has been processed. In the far back, the coffee is roasted, on the right , the coffee is coarsely grounded, and bottom is when it is finely ground.
Different phases the luwak coffee has been processed. In the far back, the coffee is roasted, on the right, the coffee is coarsely grounded, and bottom, coffee is finely grounded.

Step 6. The final product yields a finely grounded kopi luwak and packaged in a container for sale. One is by Satria Agrowisata, where we did our free coffee and tea tasting (details below) at and the other from a small shop at the Uluwatu Temple marketplace.

Different stages of kopi luwak. From top to bottom: origina luwak poo, luwak poo separated, luwak coffee beans roasted, ground, and finely grinded
Finely ground kopi luwak in the Satria Agrowisata packaging.

Bali Civet Coffee sold at the market at Uluwatu Temple
Bali Civet Coffee sold at the market at Uluwatu Temple

Tasting Special Teas and Coffees of Bali

Our driver, Rama spent an entire day with us showing us some sites in the Ubud region of Bali and he surprised us with a stop at Satria Agrowisata, a tea and coffee plantation for a free tour of the premises including looking at the flora produced on-site (lemongrass, cocoa, cloves, cinnamon, coffee beans, and so many other plants used to produce the tea and coffee sold here). We also got a quick tour of the traditional kopi luwak roasting process and enjoyed a free coffee and tea tasting before being led to the shop where we purchased a few of our favorite teas to consume during our trip and to send some unique ones home for our family to try.

The free tasting included Ginseng Coffee, Coconut Coffee, Moccacino Coffee, Vanilla Coffee, Hot Cocoa, Saffron Tea, Mangosteen Tea, Bali Coffee, Lemon Grass Tea (Organic), Rose Tea (Organic), Ginger Tea, and Roselle Tea (Organic). We were led down some steep stairs to a shaded seating area under a hut overlooking the beautiful valley and plantation and enjoyed tasting everything here. Our guide informed us that some of these herbal teas had medicinal healing properties. Saffron for overall health, immunity and to aid digestion, Roselle (or hibiscus) to lower blood pressure, promote weight-loss, cure coughs, and Mangosteen for its anti-cancer properties, to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and to reduce inflammation. There’s no pressure to purchase anything, so if you want to just enjoy the plantation and sample the tea/coffees, that would be fine.

Free coffee and tea tasting at Satria Agrowisata
Free coffee and tea tasting at Satria Agrowisata

After sampling the 12 different coffee and teas with Mangosteen, Roselle, and Saffron being our favorites tastewise and for their healing properties, I asked about the kopi luwak tasting. The kopi luwak tasting costed extra. Fortunately, it didn’t cost $80 a cup, but at 50,000 IDR or around $3.50 USD for a small cup.

Joshua outright opted out of drinking cat poo coffee or any kind of coffee because he doesn’t like the bitter taste of coffee. And since I have a knack to try new and unique things, I, of course, tried it. I’ve been wanting to try it since we first saw the civets napping at the market at Uluwatu Temple but was a little apprehensive about drinking it and getting food poisoning from the deadly E. Coli bacteria from something that is predominately made from poop. After watching how kopi luwak was produced, I felt reassured I would not get food poisoning. I paid for the cup, with coffee in hand, Joshua intently stared at me with a grossed out look on his face as I took a sip of kopi luwak, black. I felt an immediate jolt of adrenaline rush throughout my body and my taste buds were hit with a strong, sharp bitterness and grittiness from the coffee and grinds. I promptly added cream and sugar to make it less bitter so I could finish the cup of kopi luwak. Coffee connoisseurs say kopi luwak is mostly consumed for novelty since there is no distinguishable taste, one even said it tasted like Folgers.

Would You Drink Cat Poo Coffee

So kopi luwak is safe to drink, but the question is, would you want to try it for the taste or for the novelty? And the next thought is, can you get over the fact it came from the bowels of a cat? I knew I gave into the gimmick and tried it mostly for the novelty and so I can say I drank the second most expensive cup of coffee in the world and it’s made from cat poop!

Ubud, Bali – Penis Bottle Openers, Monkeys, and Learning to Cook Indonesian Foood

Ubud – Our Starting Point

Ubud market
Flower vendor at the Ubud market

Having learned during our research that the Kuta area was very touristy, we made our first destination Ubud which is labeled the spiritual center of Bali. With the cost of travel in Australia expensive, we ended up traveling quickly through the country. Wanting to do things a little slower than in Australia, we decided we would spend a week there so we wouldn’t have to rush through the sites. The laid back appeal of Ubud sounded enticing. Five location changes in less than a month left us feeling a little worn out. When we arrived on Bali we decided to take it easy in Ubud.

Whether you have a week or a month, we recommend you make the effort to visit Ubud. There are many things to do in and around Ubud. No matter whether you are doing independent exploration or with a tour you will find something that suits your interest. Ubud makes a great base for many activities. Because of its location, there seemed to be endless options for things to do. Activities include everything from hiking a volcano to riding bikes through the rice fields. For those who are not seeking adventure but a holistic experience, you can take advantage of the many spas, masseuses, and yoga facilities. Some of the activities we did while staying Ubud were seeing traditional dances, learning to cook, and taking a leisurely walk through the monkey forest. Most hotels will help arrange activities or you can join a tour. There are several tour organizers in town.

Getting to Ubud

There are several options for getting to Ubud. To get to Ubud, you can take the Kura-Kura Bus, hire a driver, or rent a motorbike and drive yourself. Since we were going to Ubud directly from the airport we hired a driver. There are several options but check all their prices and bargain. Bali is notorious for traffic, especially during commute hours, which is when we arrived, so we had to put our excitement of exploring Ubud on hold. Following a three-hour drive, even with our skilled driver Wayan weaving in and out of traffic, we arrived at Y Resort and were greeted with a welcome drink by the friendly staff. It was a pleasant drive, first going through the city and then the countryside so we were able to see a little bit of everything on the way.

Learning a New Culture

Ubud market
Kecak Fire Dance

We would learn during our time on the island that the people of Bali are very spiritual. Bali is almost entirely Balinese Hindu and we felt this most in Ubud. It seemed that everything was celebrated on Bali. The receptionist of our hotel would be celebrating the full moon later in the evening of our check-in. Everyday offerings are given to the gods, placed in front of nearly every business, several were placed around the hotel grounds. If you go to the market, the first sale is considered lucky so you may be able to get a better bargain.

The next day we decided to get a massage so we could begin to work out the stress we had built up over the years of our lives and begin healing our body and soul. After getting traditional Balinese massages, (where they massage your chests or breasts), we then caught the free shuttle from the hotel to downtown. We were dropped off in front of the old royal palace and when we tried to cross the street we were a little shocked by all the motorbikes that passed in front us. What got our attention was how much many people or goods were packed on the bikes. It is not uncommon to see four or five people packed on a motorbike. It seemed there was could be no limit to the volume of people or goods that could fit on a motorbike. I would have never thought an entire family could fit on a bike – mom, dad, and as many as three kids. But we would see it every day to our amazement. More amazing was the age of some of the drivers. Due to lack of public transit we would see elementary school age kids driving them around which was a little shocking since we would never see that back home. By the end of the two months, this would just seem normal.

penis bottle openers
Penis bottle openers are sold in Ubud, and everywhere on Bali

The main drop-off and pick-up point in the town center is in front of the old Royal Palace. If you are staying in a hotel outside the city, this will become a familiar with this location. Most things are within walking distance from here or you can hire one of the many taxi drivers to take you to another location. Wanting to visit the visitor center located across from the old Royal Palace in central Ubud, we crossed the street as soon we saw a break in traffic. With all the motorbikes whizzing by, it was a little intimidating to just step out into the street and not worry about being hit. We would get used to this way of crossing the street very quickly.

After the visitor center, we went to explore the market located next to it. Walking through the market and just wandering around was a fun experience, how could it not be, when there were penis bottle openers everywhere. Who doesn’t want to own a penis bottle opener? Besides the penis bottle opener, the market is bursting with art, from woodcarvings to paintings. It was fun to window shop, I felt like buying everything. It seemed like we were walking through an open air art gallery, making the temptation to buy a painting hard to resist, but I just couldn’t see lugging one around the world with us. Well, if we ever do stop and settle in the region, we know where to pick up some art at. Having fully enjoyed the market, we headed back to the hotel so we could soak in the fact we were no longer in the comforts of the developed world and things here would be a lot different than what we were used to. For me, this would be the beginning of letting go of the customs and rituals that defined our daily routine of life in the U.S. and starting the process of growing as individuals and citizens of the world.

Sacred Monkey Forest

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest

After resting for a couple of days, I headed to the Sacred Monkey Forest while May was getting acupuncture done at Taksu Spa. This was a fun visit; wandering the trails and just observing the monkeys interact with each other. Having learned that the monkeys can become aggressive if you have food, so I passed on buying the bananas that the vendors were selling. I knew that I made a good decision when I saw a girl run by me screaming and throwing the bananas she bought because a monkey was trying to take them; I had to laugh because I thought it was a little funny to watch. It was very peaceful just stand but and watching as the baby monkeys would play with each other, scampering up a tree and jumping from branch to branch while playfully chasing each other. While wandering on one of the trails, I stopped to watch a monkey play and as I stood there I felt the weight of a monkey jump on my back. This made me a little nervous since I didn’t know what it was doing and I didn’t want to make it mad. It was nice that I was able to make a new friend in the forest, but it got bored with me, jumped off and I was free to continue wandering the forest, a little sad my friend had left though. It was a good place to visit for a couple of hours.

Paon Cooking Class

Cooking class in Ubud
All the yummy Balinese food we learned to cook and eat!

Before we started the trip we decided we would take cooking classes in the different places we visited, so when we return home, we can share what we learned while traveling. I know I could definitely use the help learning to cook as well. So we chose to take some cooking lessons at Paon Cooking Class in Ubud. On the morning of the class, we headed to the market; located near central Ubud, where the locals would typically go and learned about the different ingredients we would need for the dishes we would be learning to make. Popular ingredients sold here specific to the Ubud region are candlenuts (similar to macadamia nuts, but a bit drier), cinnamon sticks (so long), vanilla beans, and various spices. The market was an interesting place to tour with all the different fruits, vegetables, and spices that was offered along with the activity of people going about their business.

Wayan explaining rice cultivation in Ubud
Wayan explaining rice cultivation in Ubud

After the market, we were taken to rice fields located on the edge of Ubud where we met up with another Wayan. He explained how each household was provided land by the government so that every member of the family can plant and harvest rice three times a year. Enough to feed the members of the household and maybe a little bit more to sell. Some households, like the one across from where Wayan lived, would have as many as 18 people living in it. In his case, there were only 2. Wayan continued to explain that there are three types of rice that are grown in Bali – white, brown, and red. We then headed to his house where he explained how a traditional family house was set up. Each and every house in Bali would have their own temple and the placement of the rooms is laid out the same. Based on the direction of the entryway placement. He later introduced to us to his “his ex-girlfriend” or now wife Puspa, who would lead the cooking lessons.

Ubud cooking class
Left: Joshua learning to cook, Right: Our instructor Puspa

Tempe Me Goreng from ubud cooking class
Tempe Me Goreng

We learned how to make Sate Siap, Tempe Me Goreng, Kacang Me Santok, Kuah Wong, Base Gede, Be Siap Mesanten, Jukut Urab, Peoesan Be Pasih, and Kolak Biu. It was fun to get some quality lessons on how to cook. Even though we learned to cook, did not do any cooking after that since we didn’t have a kitchen, and the food was inexpensive at restaurants. There are so many good options for eating that there was no need to prepare our own food.

Kecak and Barong Dances

Barong Dance Ubud
Barong Dance

At the visitor center, we got a schedule of all the traditional and cultural dances that are performed in Ubud. The schedule lists the time and location of all the dances. You can either buy tickets for the dances at the visitor center, from a reseller on the street, or at the venue itself. Legong dance and Kecak Fire dance are the most popular dances performed in Ubud. We originally chose just to see the Kecak Fire dance but ended up also watching the Barong dance during a day trip tour. The plots for both of these dances centered on two different battles of good vs evil. We enjoyed the Kecak Fire dance, it was a little more unique than the Barong dance, but both were entertaining. Taking in the traditional dances in Ubud happened to be one of our favorite activities on Bali