Excrement from an animal called a civet has the ability to send coffee prices soaring. Manufacturers have long been producing fake "poop coffee" and charging unsuspecting consumers exorbitant prices, but now researchers have devised a way to test the authenticity of the feces.
Civet coffee retails for anything between $150 and $227 a pound, and now scientists say they have developed a way to authenticate the coffee, according to a study published online July 27 in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
The "poop coffee" as it's often referred to, is said to have a "high aroma, smooth taste, and low acidity," Espresso Coffee Guide reported. The main exporters of civet coffee are Indonesia, where Asian Palm Civet eat ripe coffee cherries. They digest the soft fruit surrounding the beans and excrete the beans, which are then cleaned, wet-fermented, sun-dried and roasted. The coffee is sold in stores in Southeast Asia and sold online.
A research team at Eiichiro Fukusaki in Japan measured the citric acid content and did a taste test on 21 of the Indonesian coffee beans, USA TODAY reported. The unique chemical fingerprint reflects higher levels of citric acid and malic acid as well as a certain inositol/pyroglutamic acid ratio.
They found the civet droppings didn't do much for the coffee's taste, but it did affect the acidic levels in the ground beans.
"It's the first study of this type, and it's not clear to me that they were really rigorous in terms of sample selection," says Segall, who was not involved in the study. It would have been useful if they had compared two sets of coffee cherries from the same tree, with one passing through the civet and the other not going through the animal, to see if there was a fingerprint difference between the two treatments", said Stanley Segall, a spokesman for the not-for-profit Institute of Food Technologists, according to the report.
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