If you're like us, you probably only sip the robust, sublime brew that comes from coffee berries that were ingested, bowel-conditioned, and excreted by Asian palm civets. And somewhere along the line, you've probably thought to yourself, Damn, this tastes a bit like Folgers, but my palate must be having an off day because my civet-poop coffee costs $635 a pound, not that I ever look at the price tag. Well, buddy, you're in luck because now you can probably also afford to fund your own team of scientists to come over and get all mass spectrometric on your java.
The American Chemical Society reports on the new testing method developed by researchers in Japan and Indonesia to authenticate Kopi Luwak, the actual name of the civet-poop coffee. A variety of analytical methods can be used to tell the difference between the real thing, "fake Kopi Luwak, regular coffee, and coffee blend samples," researchers say. In effect, this provides a tool for a market sector rife with counterfeit products, because, you know, people sometimes really just want more expensive things to taste good.
As Slate points out, the newly established methods for certifying civet coffee as genuine may ultimately be bad news for the animals. The Guardian reported last year that the estimated "tens of thousands" of civets and closely related species are kept in small cages throughout southeast Asia and are "almost exclusively fed coffee berries" as part of a way for rural Indonesians to make extra cash. Fair trade or not, authentic or otherwise, something about this whole thing stinks.