'Good to the last dropping:' cat poop coffee

An upscale grocery store in Edmonton is stocking an unusual delicacy: coffee beans picked from the feces of a jungle cat.

Urban Fare is testing whether its customers will shell out $600 per pound for "Kopi Luwak" coffee beans, billed as one of the rarest beverages in the world.

Only 500 lbs (227 kg) of the beans are produced every year. The store plans to carry four lbs (1.8 kg).

The label for the beans promotes it as "Good to the Last Dropping," giving an indication of how the beans are produced.

It all comes down to a marsupial called by several names luwak, common palm civet and toddy cat or Paradoxurus hermaphroditus which exists in rainforests from northern India to the Philippines.

The luwak is considered a pest because it often climbs coffee trees and eats the coffee cherries. The cat is unable to digest them, so the beans pass through the cat's digestive system unscathed and into its droppings. Coffee plantations on three islands in Indonesia collect the beans from the feces.

Experts say the luwak likes to eat the ripest and reddest coffee beans, which are the best ones for brewing. The cat eats the outer covering of the beans in the same way that de-pulping machines process the beans.

Apparently the enzymes in the animal's stomach add "something unique" to the coffee's flavour through fermentation. The beans are thoroughly cleaned and then roasted at 249 degrees C.

According to store manager Leanne Ring, there are "some coffee nuts" who want to give it a try. Ring describes the taste as "earthy and bold" with no bitterness or aftertaste.

Other Web sites have described it as having a rich, strong aroma with a "complex" and "gamey" flavour.