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The world's most costly

FOR those who love to indulge in coffee and while away the afternoon in places like Central Perk in Friends, there's a new coffee indulgence, and a great taste adventure in store at the Indonesia Pavilion.

The world's most expensive and exotic coffee - delicious too - is Kopi Luwak, or civet cat coffee, specially prepared and served in the pavilion.

As a coffee lover, I first got to know about Kopi Luwak from a TV travel program, "Coffee Confidential," and I was amazed by the cute and clever civet cat and what it can do with coffee beans.

"Kopi" is the Indonesian word for coffee and "Luwak" is the local name of an Indonesian wild civet cat. The cats inhabit the coffee-growing areas and come out nightly to feast on only the best of the ripest coffee berries, of various varieties. They start with the best ingredients.

As the beans pass through the cat's digestive system, chemical reactions take place and enzymes break down proteins in the beans. After the beans emerge as droppings, they have been somewhat fermented. They lack their fleshy coating but they are entire and undigested. They are carefully washed and cleaned, and then roasted to become to world's most expensive coffee beans.

The coffee has a rich aroma and full-bodied texture. It's quite different from beans that go through regular roasting and brewing. The taste can vary greatly, depending on the kind of beans eaten by the civet, but all are rich, mild and flavorful.

Due to the unique processing and limited production, Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world - around US$600 per pound. Only around 500 pounds are produced a year in Indonesia.

Some coffee addicts even say, "There will be no regret in life after you drink a cup of Kopi Luwak."

Now, at the Indonesia Pavilion in the World Expo, visitors can have that opportunity.

The elegant coffee bar on the top floor produces 12 cups of authentic Kopi Luwak every day, each costing 380 yuan (US$55.90). Each is made with 12 grams of coffee grounds and 50-60 grams water.

After you are seated, a graceful Indonesian lady explains the origins, processing and flavor of the coffee. Then she prepares before you and you begin your real "Kopi Luwak" journey.

According to Mavis Mak, senior public relations manager of the Indonesia Pavilion, all the waitress serving the coffee have been specially trained to prepare the coffee, and to help visitors appreciate it.

"We aim to provide Expo visitors the best quality and best taste of this rare coffee. You need to follow strict steps to make a good one," Mak said.

The restaurant also sells beans and ground coffee, but many customers prefer to enjoy it in the pavilion, as the professional staff uses a Syphon coffee maker to bring out the unique flavor and aroma. And the Indonesian ambience is inviting.

As world's fourth-largest coffee producer, Indonesia has unique soil conditions, cultivating methods and geographic advantage in producing many kinds of fine coffee. Kopi Luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi.

The coffee is also produced in the Philippines, East Timor and Vietnam, though many people consider the Indonesian civet cat coffee the best.

"It is because Luwak is a unique creature living in Indonesia, just like pandas in China, so the rare animals make the rare and unique coffees," Mak said.

"Some people ask why we don't raise and machine-feed the Luwaks to increase production of coffee beans. But mass production would destroy the natural taste of Kopi Luwak, which local farmers regard as gifts from god," said Mak.

After the elaborate preparation at my table, I finally got to taste the dreamy cup of Koi Luwak. It looks like regular coffee, smells wonderful and tastes clean and pure.

Though I did not find the hints of caramel or chocolate that some aficionados describe, the low acidity, lack of bitterness, the strong aroma and rich pure taste did impress me.

After indulging further, I found the coffee has an incredibly delicious, subtle lingering flavor and exceptional smoothness. The taste lasted a long time on my taste buds. These wonderful, locked-away flavors are released because of the natural enzymes of the civet cat.

The pavilion also provides free traditional snacks to go with the pricy coffee, so you can better enjoy Indonesian culinary culture.

After finishing your coffee adventure, the pavilion staff will take two pictures of you, one for your souvenir, and one to be hung in the coffee bar, joining the elite group of people who "have no regrets in life."


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