As the saying goes, “The man who ate the first oyster was brave!” I can also give credit to who ever imagined a big lobster or octopus or snail as the main dish in a fine dining restaurant. But when it comes to cat-poop-coffee, clearly someone lost his mind.
I currently have 2 dogs who loves to sleep with me all day around (when I am not playing with teeth in my dental spa or with words on this travel site), and I once had a cute looking cat as a pet not many years ago. While I loved my cats and dogs, it never occurred to my empty mind that I should look into the waste they excrete every day and say, “I think this would make a fine breakfast beverage.” Never!
That thought did, however, occur to those who came up with the idea for Kopi Luwak, coffee made from the digested, partially fermented beans expelled from the Indonesian Civet cat’s intestines.
And since we all know “An Idea Can Change Your Life”; so here’s the shock: expect to pay $100 (Rs. 6,000) in New York City and London for a single cup of coffee, while 1 kg of roasted beans can fetch as much as $600 (Rs. 36,000) in Indonesia and five times more overseas. The ultimate in caffeine nirvana is civet coffee packed in a Britannia-silver and 24-carat gold-plated bag, sold at the British department store Harrods for over $10,000 or Rs. 6 Lacs only. Any justification for these insane prices? A claim which is largely nonsense that Kopi Luwak is sourced from wild animals and that only 500 kg of it is collected annually.
So here’s the story so far… on our visit to Bali last year, our driver Gunaraja told us about the story of Bali Coffee and took us to a coffee farm. In Southeast Asia, there’s a jungle cat called the Civet which loves to eat coffee cherries. The civet’s digestive system uses the fruit of the coffee cherry for nourishment – but only partly begins to break down the coffee cherry pit (what we call the “coffee bean”) before pooping it out through anus.
The costliest coffee on earth has a humble beginning. As history tells, civet coffee, or kopi luwak in Indonesian, was discovered by plantation workers in colonized Indonesia. Forbidden from consuming coffee beans picked from the plants, they picked up the beans from the cat poop, cleaned and then roasted the beans excreted by wild Asian palm civets that entered the plantations to eat the ripest coffee cherries. The civets’ digestive systems gave kopi luwak a uniquely rich aroma and smooth, rounded flavor — so much so that the Dutch plantation owners soon became die-hard fans.
A little over twenty years ago, kopi luwak coffee was introduced to Europe and America. It has gradually become more popular and more expensive. It has been featured on popular shows, such as Oprah, and in the film “The Bucket List”, leading to more demand for it. Kopi luwak could only be produced in small quantities, so things changed.
There are some serious animal welfare concerns regarding the production of this coffee. Historically, the partially digested coffee beans were sourced from the faeces of wild, free-roaming Asian Palm civets. But due to increased demand and the time and effort needed to source these faeces from free-roaming animal populations, civets are now caught from the wild and placed into intensive farming situations.
These civets are kept in small, barren cages. They are fed a mixture of coffee beans and fruit and their faeces are collected. These animals suffer and die because of their restricted diet. They are stressed because they are in such a confined space. Some have bad injuries. The naturally shy and solitary nocturnal creatures suffer greatly from the stress of being caged in proximity to other luwaks, and the unnatural emphasis on coffee cherries in their diet causes other health problems too; they fight among themselves, gnaw off their own legs, start passing blood in their stools, and frequently die.
Wild luwaks – the trapping of which is supposed to be strictly controlled in Indonesia – are caught by poachers, caged and force-fed coffee cherries in order to crap out the beans for the pleasure of the thousands who have been conned into buying this “incredibly rare” and very expensive “luxury” coffee.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently launched an in-depth investigation in to the production of Kopi Luwak in Asia. Their findings are horrific. Civets are kept in unacceptable and cruel conditions and the claims that Kopi Luwak is wild-sourced are largely false.
Luwak coffee is nothing more than a cruel novelty. We find it unbelievable that people would pay top dollar to drink an animal’s waste and contribute to such appalling animal cruelty in every cup.
Would you drink it considering the most expensive coffee in the world ?