Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee and sells for about $200-$400 per kilogram. Some argue that coffee beans that have passed through the digestive system of the civet have a nice, smooth after-taste but others argue that it is likely to be just a marketing gimmick.
This coffee was discovered under in Indonesia whilst they were under Dutch colonial rule. Local farmers and plantation workers were prohibited to cultivate coffee for their own use at that period, and were forbidden from having or trying any of the harvest.
Soon they learned the civet cat would eat the coffee cherries and pass them out without digesting them. And much to their delight, they found it tastes much better than the traditional coffee of that period!
Is Kopi Luwak Safe?
According to a research done by a food scientist at the University of Guelph, Canada, Massimo Marcone wrote “When luwak feeds on coffee beans their stomach acids and enzymes digest the beans’ cherry-like covering and ferment the beans themselves before they’re excreted. It’s believed that fermentation process could give kopi luwak coffee a unique flavour”.
Additionally, Marcone wrote that “Proteins are responsible for much of the coffee flavour, particularly bitterness. Since kopi luwak beans have less protein, they may produce a less bitter coffee,”.
This explains why Kopi luwak has many advocates, particularly for its flavour. Most coffee connoisseurs consider the beans Kopi Luwak better, cleaner and chocolate-like; explaining the hype for this aromatic cat poop coffee.
Problems With Kopi Luwak & Animal Rights Controversy
Most companies say Kopi Luwak harvested by them is both “genuine and wild.” Genuine hand-sourced Kopi Luwak beans are harvested from hand civet droppings after moving undigested coffee beans along. This can only be achieved by tracking a civet ‘s movements. Nevertheless, as Kopi Luwak value grows alongside its demand for it, more people have taken to hold captive civets to ensure a strong and secure supply of civet coffee.
Moreover, more than 80 per cent of Kopi Luwak ‘s coffee sold today is fraudulent. It hasn’t even been near a civet cat, much less through one. Even if you happen to get your hands on the real thing, you’re going to drink what amounts to a civet cat’s form of liquid suffering.
Why? Because civet cats are tiny mammals, with small appetites. They are solitary, nocturnal and live in the rainforest. Harvesting real, free range Kopi Luwak is more or less like hunting for poo truffles; with a much smaller pay off. The only way to scale is to industrialise it and hold these civet cats in captivity.
In most cases, these civets are fed a steady diet of coffee cherries – and nothing else. The cramped, unsanitary, and often uncomfortable (not to mention unnatural) conditions of some of these civet farms, coupled with the radically limited diet of pure coffee cherries, has drawn outrage from animal rights activists.
These civets are then only served a regular diet of coffee cherries-and nothing else. All if not most of these civet farms’ crowded, unsanitary, and sometimes unpleasant environments. Coupled with the radically limited diet of pure coffee cherries, this practice have stirred up criticism from animal rights activists.
Should You Avoid All Kopi Luwak?
Since there’s no way to be confident you’re having actual Kopi Luwak if all the beans are picked ethically, some people will advise you to just keep away. And how you should not drink Kopi Luwak even in Indonesia.
In short: If you feel like throwing $200-400 per kilo on “authentic” Kopi Luwak, at least for now, it will be a contribution to animal cruelty within the industry. And even if you manage to get the real deal, it’s definitely not going to be the same flavor that “made the legend”—and even if it was, it’s nothing special by modern coffee standards.
As much as it may sound like a cool idea to buy as a gift for a coffee lover, we would not recommend it for now. Although this is a question that everyone has to decide for themselves.