Scientists have developed a test to determine whether or not a cup of the legendary Kopi Luwak coffee of Indonesia is truly what it purports to be. According to a Eureka Alert from the American Chemical Society, the test shows whether or not the beans have passed through the alimentary tract of the Asian palm civet, a cat-like mammal, which gives the beans their unique flavor and enables Kopi Luwak (Indonesian for "civet coffee") to sell for up to $80 per cup and $150 to $200 per pound of beans.

The Asian palm civet eats coffee cherries, the fruit of the coffee plant. They digest the soft fruit and excrete the seeds in their feces, which, according to connoisseurs, gives the coffee a flavor unlike any other in the world.

The fact that people will pay exorbitant amounts for real Kopi Luwak has led to a thriving black market in fake Kopi Luwak. Some people sell regular coffee beans and claim they are the famous civet coffee. Others adulterate Kopi Luwak beans with regular coffee beans, hoping drinkers won't notice the inferior quality.

Dr. Eiichiro Fukusaki of the American Chemical Society and colleagues have developed a test that checks for the unique chemical fingerprint on Kopi Luwak. In a report published Tuesday in the society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, study authors wrote, "This is the first report to address the selection and successful validation of discriminant markers for the authentication of Kopi Luwak."

[image of an Asian palm civet via]