September 8, 2013
Authentication Test Can Help Get The Straight Poop On Civet Coffee
[ Watch the Video: The Straight Poop On Kopi Luwak ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineIf you’re going to pay $80 for a cup of coffee made out of poop, you want to be sure you’re getting the real deal. Thankfully, researchers have developed a way to authenticate Kopi Luwak, the unique brew created from the feces of a Southeast Asian creature known as the palm civet.
Kopi Luwak, which is Indonesian for “civet coffee,” can fetch up to $150 to $200 per pound, and as Douglas Cobb of the Las Vegas Guardian Express explains, that kind of price tag can make it a tempting target for “some unscrupulous individuals to commit fraud.”
The beverage is undistinguishable from any traditional brew to the naked eye, Cobb writes, so it can be difficult to tell whether or not a coffee connoisseur is getting the real thing or a cheap knockoff – perhaps one not actually created using coffee beans previously fermented in the gastrointestinal tract of a four-to-eleven pound mammal.
New research led by Osaka University’s Eiichiro Fukusaki and published in a recent edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry could change all of that, however. Fukusaki’s team has reportedly developed the first scientific method to verify that liquids claiming to be Kopi Luwak are, in fact, the real deal.
According to USA Today’s Cathy Payne, the scientists said that they have discovered what they refer to as a “metabolic fingerprint” that allows them to use metabolomics technology in order to authenticate the caffeinated beverage.
Their method can distinguish between Kopi Luwak, ordinary coffee marketed as Kopi Luwak or “watered down” civet coffee mixed with cheaper beans. The unique chemical composition of the actual drink reflects elevated citric acid and malic acid levels, as well as a certain inositol/pyroglutamic acid ratio, she added.
“Metabolomics is research that focuses on metabolites, which are substances produced during metabolism (chemical processes such as digestion),” the USA Today reported explained. “A metabolic fingerprint consists of metabolites that can be detected by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Fukusaki… says the method of authenticating the coffee by its fingerprint could eventually be widely used, but technical improvements would first be needed.”
Institute of Food Technologists spokesman Stanley Segall told Payne that the study was a “very good beginning,” but cautioned that additional research was needed on the matter. He added that it would have been “useful” if Fukusaki’s team had compared two sets of coffee beans from the same tree – one of which that had passed through the civet, and one of which had not – to look for possible differences in the fingerprint caused by the fermentation process.