Weasel Shit Coffee: A Delicacy in Vietnam
I don’t know how this was discovered, but apparently coffee beans shit out by a civet (a weasel-like animal) makes for a damn good cup of coffee. Civet coffee, or weasel coffee, is an expensive delicacy that started in Indonesia where it’s known as kopi luwak. In the past few years, this delicacy has been rising in popularity in Vietnam. I tried the coffee for myself in the city of Dalat, where the Weasel Coffee farm produces and brews the coffee on site. Here’s how it went.
Everywhere you go in Vietnam, which is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, vendors sell civet coffee beans of dubious origin. The prices they offer are so low that they’re almost all likely fakes produced through a chemical process. The actual process is a lot more labor intensive, as feeding an animal some coffee beans, digging through its shit to pick it out and finally drying and roasting the beans takes a lot of time and work. Apparently, the civets eat the coffee cherries. The coffee ferments in the animals’ stomach, which supposedly improves the taste. At the very least, this process increases the cost.
The stuff at Weasel Coffee seems to be the real deal and you’re going to pay for it. Ten grams – which is enough to make about two cups – goes for $10. A kilo of the stuff costs almost $100. For comparison’s sake, a normal cup of black coffee in Vietnam is around 50 to 75 cents.
The farm is located a short drive outside the downtown area of the coffee hub of Dalat. There’s a café area and in the back is a farm where some coffee beans are grown and the building housing about 40 or so weasels. One of the criticisms of the entire civet coffee industry is the deplorable condition that the animals often endure. From what I saw, the cages at Weasel Coffee were fairly large and kept clean. That was reassuring as one of the staffers gave me a short tour. After I went to the café where I bought 10 grams and had a cup made for me.
So how was it? I like my coffee as black as possible, and that’s exactly how this was prepared (there were cheap instant milk powders available which I never bothered with). The smell was strong and the taste matched it. I’m not refined enough to describe the taste in a detailed way, but it was a great cup of coffee. Considering the high price, this isn’t something I’d regularly consume despite the taste. It’s a novelty I’m glad I tired as I continue to stick with my relatively cheap coffee.
Hours and Location
Weasel Coffee is a few kilometers away from the downtown area in Dalat and can be located here. I couldn’t find any listed hours, but it seems to be open all week during the day. Some drivers know where it is, but it’s easy enough to get there on your own if you’re renting a motorbike or bicycle. Just be careful of the incredibly steep hill you need to go down to get there.
I'm an American freelance writer who spent a couple years living in Cambodia. Now I'm on the move again and traveling all over the place. I'm willing to try any bizarre liquor that's presented to me. Any recommendations?