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Food + Cooking

Eight of the World’s Most Expensive Ingredients

Published in Gourmet Live 04.11.12
There’s more to high-end edibles than lobster and foie gras: See what exorbitant ingredients Elizabeth Gunnison unearthed, and learn what’s behind the luxury pricing
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Most Expensive Coffee: Kopi Luwak

What It Is: Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, is coffee that has passed through the digestive system of a nocturnal catlike animal called a civet. Wild civets, found predominantly in Asia and Africa, eat the fruit of the coffee plant as part of their natural diet and then excrete the beans in their dung. These same beans, having been fermented by the animal’s stomach acids and enzymes, are purported to produce smoother, less bitter coffee. Although many Thai, Filipino, and Indonesian producers are now caging civets and force-feeding them the coffee cherries to spur production, the best kopi luwak is said to be foraged from the droppings of wild civets, which paw-pick only the best coffee cherries to consume.

How Much: Kopi luwak retails for as much as $500 per pound, or about $1 per gram.

Why Pay More: A very pricey process: Not only must each bean of wilderness-sourced coffee make it through the digestive tract of a civet, but it must also be collected by a forager then cleaned and roasted.


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Elizabeth Gunnison is a freelance writer based in New York. She currently serves as the online food correspondent for Esquire.com and contributes to such outlets as The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Esquire, and BonAppetit.com.