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Big Spender: Crap-tastic $350 Coffee

Stocks in this article: HSYORCL

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- On the first Tuesday of each month, curious gourmands crowd into Coffee and Chocolate, a small coffee shop in Knoxville, Tenn., where they pay $25 for the opportunity to sample a piece of artisanal chocolate and a cup of joe known as Kopi Luwak. The coffee is revered for its sweetness and smoothness, but better known for its derivation: the fannies of Indonesian civet cats.

Every coffee bean in the world comes from the middle of a coffee berry fruit. And in most coffee production, a person or a machine skins the berry from the bean. Not so in the production of Kopi Luwak, in which an Asian Palm Civet chooses and eats the reddest and ripest berries, which travel through its digestive tract, stripping the fruit from the bean. What comes out the other end of the civet is a clump of undigested coffee beans.

The beans are collected by local workers and eventually sold at retailers such as Coffeeforless.com, which sells the stuff for $350 a pound -- although it has been known to sell for up to $600 per pound. Production reports vary, but generally fewer than 1,000 pounds of luwak beans are collected annually, and their relative rarity helps account for the expense.

Kopi Luwak is made from beans that have been digested by civet cats in Asia.

"Luwak" is the local name for the Asian Palm Civet, according to Animalcoffee.com, an Australian company that gives customers the option of buying the beans roasted ($40 for a two-ounce Arabica pouch) or raw ($60 for a half-pound clump, along with a souvenir Kopi Luwak Lucite key ring). The raw looks disturbingly like a Hershey's (HSY) PayDay bar.

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