Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Mon, 01/17/2011 12:24 PM | Bali

The market for civet coffee, or kopi luwak, continues to see high demand in Bali despite the exorbitant prices, with beans selling for up to Rp 1 million (US$110) per kilogram.

Farmers on the island struggle to meet demands for the coffee, which is made from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a civet. The beans retained their shape throughout this process.

After being gathered, washed, sun dried, lightly roasted and brewed, the coffee is highly prized by connoisseurs for its allegedly smooth flavor and non-bitter aftertaste, earning it the reputation of the world’s most expensive coffee.

Bali Plantation Agency head Made Sudharta said farmers on the island were overwhelmed by the annual demand of more than 4 tons of kopi luwak per year.

In 2010, Bali’s production of the commodity reached 2.5 tons, an increase from 1.7 tons in 2009.

“Demand remains high, although more local farmers are turning to this crop,” he said.

Kopi luwak includes both the robusta and arabica blends, with the arabica blend fetching around Rp 1.5 million per kilogram and the robusta blend sold at between Rp 750,000 and Rp 1 million per kilogram.

Kopi luwak has seen a sharp rise in popularity lately, with many claiming the coffee was more delicious and had a stronger aroma than other blends.

“The civet only picks and eats the finest coffee berries — the sweet, red ones,” Sudharta said.

“This coffee remains popular despite the MUI’s [Indonesian Ulema Council] declaration that it was haram. We’re still seeing great demand because of its exclusivity.”

Kopi luwak is not a new delicacy for the Balinese, but it had only been commercially produced since 2005 and continues to receive a positive response.

“Tourists often buy this coffee for souvenirs,” Sudharta said.

The move to commercial production has also altered the production process. The beans used to be produced naturally by wild civets in coffee plantations where they usually ate and defecated. Farmers would collected the droppings to be cleaned and processed.

Currently, the coffee is now produced from civets reared in cages and fed coffee berries.

The high demand has driven farmers and entrepreneurs to turn to the crop, which is mostly produced in highland areas such as Kintamani in Bangli and Pupuan in Tabanan.

“I’m sure demand will increase this year. We will encourage more farmers to cultivate this coffee,” Sudharta said.

Gde Putra Yasa has been producing kopi luwak, which he sells under the brand name Rait, for the last four years.

“The demand keeps increasing. More tourists buy this coffee as a souvenir. I have also begun selling to consumers in Jakarta,” he said, adding that he worked with coffee farmers in Pupuan.

In the last seven months, he said, he sold 500 kilograms of kopi luwak to customers that included the many agriculture tourism destinations in Bali. He claimed that many foreign tourists also visited his plantation to buy the coffee.

The price, in line with the high demand, continues to increase. “The current price is Rp 1.2 million per kilogram [for the robusta blend], a good price,” Gde Putra said.

Gede Rimayasa, a coffee farmer in Pujungan village, Pupuan, built several civet cages on his 7-hectare coffee estate.

“I’m interested in cultivating this coffee. I heard it’s quite profitable,” he said, adding that he normally produced 7.5 tons of dried coffee beans each year, which he sold at Rp 1.3 million per 100 kilograms.

“The price of 1 kilogram of kopi luwak is equal to 100 kilograms of ordinary coffee.”