On a recent trip to Ubud, I made a stop at one of Bali’s boutique coffee plantations: the Laksmi Bali agro tourism. It is there, in the mountainous areas close to Bali volcanoes, that the perfect climate allows for the growing and production of coffee beans, and amongst these beans is the most famous and most expensive coffee in the world: Kopi Luwak.
I must admit that up to a few years back I was unfairly unaware of this special brew of coffee and of its production, which involves a particularly slow roast method. Also, I am Italian and that makes me a coffee-lover! That is why, after spotting a couple of big signs advertising coffee farms, I prompted my driver to stop.
We were greeted by a smiling young woman in uniform, who welcomed us to follow her inside the plantation. It was immediately clear that the plantation was huge. The guide was incredibly informative while she took us along well-manicured paths. Inside the gardens, we were guided through a token plantation past several spices-producing plants like vanilla and cinnamon, and different varieties of coffee, variations of arabica and robusta.
The guide was a wealth of information indeed, and time flew in her company. She made a point of informing us that coffee in bali can be grown sustainably and ethically, as it uses less water than other fruits, and as the industry employs local farmers and work in tandem with the Bali way of life. Impressive!
As we followed the track, we reached an area where a couple of small possum-like creatures rested in their tree-house, curled up like armadillos. These were the stars of the show: the Civet cats. One of them was awaken by our arrival and immediately reached the front gate to sniff us out. It appeared to be well looked-after, and we had to resist the temptation to cuddle it. The guide was quick to warn us: despite being cute-looking, Civet cats are wild animals and are prone to biting.
But let me tell you more about them. This cat-like nocturnal animal native to South East Asia and Africa only eats the freshest coffee berries thanks to their fleshy pulp. The berries travel through the cat’s digestive tracks, getting treated with enzymes in a process that removes much of the coffee’s bitterness. Once they berries are defecated, their flavour is superb, creating the smooth rich blend everyone talks about: Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world, which can be sold in the West at anything from 300 to 700 euros per kg!
The guide then took us to the place where Kopi Luwak is processed, where we experienced the way the beans are washed, sunned and eventually their seeds extracted for roasting and grinding, all of it by hand! Amazing!
We were then taken to a hangout area which has the most breathtaking view of the rice plantations across. There were wood chairs and tables roofed by a wooden gazebo; we were invited to be seated and to taste a series of locally grown teas and coffees of various flavours, amongst which were vanilla, cinnamon and ginger, one of my favourites. They also offered us to purchase a tasting cup of Kopi Luwak at the inexpensive price of 50,000 IDR (about 3 euros), not bad at all for a unique cup of coffee that would cost us up to 40 euros in the West. We immediately took advantage and sipped our Kopi Luwak while contemplating the valley below and the cool wind that had started blowing from the mountains.
Once the tasting was over, our nice guide headed to the plantation shop where visitors can purchase most of the products tasted during the tour, including of course Kopi Luwak, all packed up nicely and ready to be presented back home as a gift. The price of teas and coffees at the shop may be a bit higher than your average Bali supermarket, but considering they grow it on site and that the visit to the plantation is free, we did not hesitate and filled up a carrier bag.
We spent a lovely hour in the company of a great guide, who rightly received our congratulations and a nice tip as well. I highly recommend a stop to the Laksmi Bali agro tourism: it is a great place to drop by if you are touring the island or are staying around Ubud, it is so different to anything else in Bali, and in the end you do not need to spend anything if you do not want to.