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Coffee around the world: Why you should never buy the most expensive coffee in the world

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What is the difference between the most expensive coffee in the world and coffee from Green Dragon Roasters?

Both are made in small batches. Both are considered specialty roasts. 

One is roasted the same day you place an order and involves carefully selected beans from all over the world. 

The other is far less sustainable, costs anywhere between $35 and $80 for a single cup, and involves feces.

You heard that right: feces.

Kopi luwak, also known as "civet coffee" and "cat poop coffee," is widely considered the most expensive coffee in the world because of how allegedly little is produced each year and because of its unusual, feces-involving production.

Before kopi luwak beans go through the washing, drying, pounding, sorting, and roasting steps typical of any coffee processing, they are digested and excreted by a civet, a cat-like mammal found in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

When civets eat coffee berries -- the fruit that surrounds coffee beans -- their digestive enzymes alter the structure of the proteins in the coffee beans and remove some of the acidity, according to a recent article from National Geographic. 

Once the beans are cleaned, washed, and processed, the beans are said to make for a uniquely smooth cup of coffee. 

But, as you may have guessed, it's no easy task to collect enough civet-excreted coffee beans in the wild for sustainable commercial production, which is the cause for kopi luwak's astronomically high price tag. 

Yet as word of kopi luwak's elusiveness has spread in the last 30 years, the number of kopi luwak producers have mushroomed and there are now countless commercial producers in Indonesia, India, Vietnam, China, and the Philippines. 

This means at least two things, according to Tony Wild, a coffee entrepreneur who says he was one of the first to import kopi luwak to the West.

In an editorial to the Guardian about how problematic the industry has become, Wild wrote that most kopi luwak beans today come from civets that have been "caught by poachers, caged and force-fed coffee cherries" in "appalling conditions." 

In the same editorial, Wild also argued that despite many producers' claims that only 500 kilograms of kopi luwak is produced each year -- again, a big part of the reason for the high price tag -- he puts actual yearly productions at 50 tons. 

And it's not just civet feces that is sought after anymore either: Thai elephants, Brazilian jacu birds, and Bonobo monkeys have also been forced into the trade. 

Our suggestion? Stick with your local sustainable coffee roaster. 

If you would like to learn more about Green Dragon Roasters, please feel free to contact us

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