Some of the most famous coffees of the world are grown on the gigantic islands of the Malay Archipelago: Sumatra, Sulawesi or Celebes, and Java in Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Whereas Central American coffees are distinguished by their dry, winey aftertaste, the coffees of Indonesia and New Guinea are noted for their richness, full body, long finish, and an acidity that, though pronounced, is deep- toned, gentle, and enveloped in the complexity of the coffee. Many consider the Mandheling and Ankola coffees of Sumatra the world's finest. They are often hard to find, but still moderate in price. Of the two, Mandheling is the more admired, and the Lintong mark of Mandheling probably the most admired of all. Both Ankola and Mandheling are grown near the port of Padang in west-central Sumatra, at altitudes of 2,500 to 5,000 feet. Mandheling is probably the most full-bodied coffee in the world; you can feel the richness settling in the corners behind your tongue. It has a relatively low acidity, but enough to keep the cup vibrant and interesting. The flavor, like the body, is rich, smooth, and full.
These are dry-processed coffees, but the dried husk of the fruit is removed by washing in hot water, giving the coffee a more uniform appearance than is the case with many other dry-processed coffees. It may be that the unusual preparation of Sumatran and Sulawesi coffees, which combines prolonged contact of coffee bean with dried fruit characteristic of the dry method, and the meticulous cleaning and sorting usually associated with the wet method, contributes to the unique flavor characteristics of these fine coffees.
Kopi Luwak coffee comes from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, an area well-known for its excellent coffee. Also native to the area is a small civit-like animal called a Paradoxurus. That's the scientific name, the locals call them luwaks. These little mammals live in the trees and one of their favorite foods is the red, ripe coffee cherry. They eat the cherries, bean and all. While the bean is in the little guy's stomach, it undergoes chemical treatments and fermentations. The bean finishes its journey through the digestive system, and exits. The still-intact beans are collected from the forest floor, and are cleaned, then roasted and ground just like any other coffee.
The resulting coffee is said to be like no other. It has a rich, heavy flavour with hints of caramel or chocolate.
Other terms used to describe it are earthy, musty and exotic. The body is almost syrupy and it's very smooth.
One must wonder about the circumstances that brought about the first cup of Kopi Luwak coffee. Who would think to (or even want to) collect and roast beans out of animal feces? Perhaps a native figured it was easier to collect the beans from the ground this way, rather than having to work harder and pick them from the trees? We'll likely never know. But because of the strange method of collecting, there isn't much Kopi Luwak produced in the world. The average total annual production is only around 500 pounds of beans.
Because of the rarity of this coffee, the price is quite outrageous. If you can find a vendor, the current cost for a pound of Kopi Luwak is around $300 or more. Some more adventurous coffee houses are selling it by the cup, but you won't likely find it at your local coffee shop just yet. The coffee isn't so spectacular that it's truly worth that amount of money. You are paying for the experience of enjoying such an unusual and rare delicacy.