Kopi luwak, i.e. Vietnamese weasel coffee, is made from beans that have been consumed and excreted by civets. It can cost as much as $3000/lb, so few have probably tried it. This process doesn't seem incredibly sanitary. Is this coffee safe to drink? Do people contract diseases from drinking it?
Yes, it's perfectly safe to drink and extremely delicious. In The Philippines, we often call this 'Kopi Alamid', and it truly is one of the rarest coffees on the planet. At around $20 per 75 grams (local price), it's also one of the world's most expensive coffees.
The palm civet is a nocturnal cat (well, more like a ferret, but technically a cat) that eats the berries (beans) and is extremely picky in its diet. For the civet to choose a bean, it has to be just right when it comes to the aroma, and given the sensitivity of this creature's nose, said aroma means the bean is perfect. Some say the digestive process itself lends to better flavor, it can be a matter of heated debate depending on where you ask ;)
The thing is, the cat doesn't digest the whole bean, just the outer pulp. Farmers follow them around and wait for nature to take its course, then the beans are processed in a very safe manner. Farmers typically get just a kilo or so a day, it's quite an intensive process.
I drink it as often as I can afford to do so, and I have never gotten sick. It's a partly fruity, partly nutty and just an all over cozy and relaxing taste that I highly recommend if you're able to get the coffee. Just be prepared to pay quite a bit, and ready to consume it quickly after getting it home (it does not keep as well as others, probably due to local transportation issues prolonging the time it takes from roasting to actually get to market).
If you have a hand-powered burr grinder, I recommend using it and grinding pretty gingerly, even the heat of most ceramic grinders is enough to lose a little bit of the fruity taste you'd otherwise get. Really, treat these beans like royalty, they're that good.
If you buy some, try to avoid buying from farms with captive civets - the growing popularity of this coffee has led to a cottage trapping industry, which is (unfortunately) likely to seriously endanger them soon.
The Civet cat is out of the Java bag, and people around the world are bidding up the cost for this delicious coffee to $200-400/lb. and above.
While I would like to convince you this coffee is dangerous and give you my address so you can send it to me for proper disposal, honesty compels me to point out the proper preparation makes it perfectly safe for human consumption.
A University of Guelph, Ontario study by Massimo Marcone bears this out, finding it has fewer bacteria than regular coffee. "As a food scientist, I'm skeptical that anything being in contact with feces is safe," said Marcone. "But tests revealed that the Kopi Luwak beans had negligible amounts of enteric (pathogenic) organisms associated with feces."
Harvesting of Civet green beans is very labor intensive, with each bean being individually graded after washing and drying. Then the best of the beans are typically given a medium roast, reaching internal temperatures between 410°F and 428°F.
It's pretty safe to drink, but you might want to educate yourself about the way the coffee is produced. Read this for example.
Yes it is safe to drink. Many people often hesitate to consume it as the coffee beans are actually partly digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. But to everyone's surprise it has got many benefits like it is good for ulcer patients, protects teeth and many more. Know all the facts regarding this Indonesian beverage in All About Kopi Luwak.