Stop Civet Cat Abuse

This shot was taken on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia.

We all make fun of kopi luwak, or “poop coffee,” which is the coffee that is eaten by the Asian palm civet, then excreted, washed, and sold for exorbitant prices based pretty much on the kitsch factor—I’ve never met a coffee professional who has recommended this coffee. It’s neither good nor specialty—the only thing it has going for it is what I just explained. People buy it in the airport as they’re leaving Asia for a funny gift to someone back home who will get a kick out of poop coffee. It’s stupid. Seriously. (One of the best George Howell lines ever is that kopi luwak is “from assholes, for assholes.”)

The beautiful Asian palm civet, whose habit of eating coffee cherry in the wilds of Indonesia and pooping out the bean, has created a big industry. Now civets are kept in cages by the tens of thousands and force-fed coffee for big profits.

The beautiful Asian palm civet, whose habit of eating coffee cherry in the wilds of Indonesia and pooping out the bean, has created a big industry. Now civets are kept in cages by the tens of thousands and force-fed coffee for big profits.

Producers of the kopi luwak claim that the cat has a special ability to select choice cherries, and that, combined with the “processing method,” makes for great coffee. It’s said that the civet’s proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans after the cat has eaten the cherry fruit, and make shorter peptides and more free amino acids, which I guess is a good thing?

Whatever. I don’t give a flying crap whether it tastes good or not; the way kopi luwak is cultivated is so horrendous that it should be stopped for good.

How civets really live, pictured here in a cage where they are force-fed coffee cherry around the clock.

How civets really live, pictured here in a cage where they are force-fed coffee cherry around the clock.

But when Oprah promotes it (which she did), and it gets a laugh in movies like “The Bucket List” (which it did), people take notice. That means it’s more important than ever that specialty coffee professionals have the story right and educate their friends about what’s really going on.

Kopi luwak first got attention because it was harvested from wild civet cats. I guess people would stumble upon piles of poop and make coffee from it. Who knows how this idiocy started. But when those folks realized the kind of money (about $700 USD per kilogram) they could make from selling kopi luwak, they quickly upped their game to get the stuff faster: they built enormous warehouses full of battery cages, where they could force feed civets coffee all day long—thousands of them at a time.

A photo from the BBC's investigative report on the real production of civet coffee.

A photo from the BBC’s investigative report on the real production of civet coffee.

The BBC did a shocking investigation in September of 2013 where reporters posed as buyers in order to get an inside look at the kopi luwak system in Sumatra. To see the appalling footage, go HERE.

Sellers of kopi luwak often claim it is collected in the wild, but that’s hardly ever the case. If people knew the conditions in which the poor civet cats are being held, the charm (?) of the poop coffee would likely fade.

This shot was taken on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia.

This shot was taken on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia.

It’s critical that coffee professionals help spread the word to their non coffee friends: people look to you for advise about what coffee to buy, and “poop coffee” is an attention grabbing piece of kitsch. Do your part and warn them not to be fooled. Even better, have them sign this petition to help convince retailers of kopi luwak to do the following:

  1. Make a commitment to selling only wild sourced, cage-free civet coffee
  2. Scrutinise their supply chain to ensure that their products are 100 per-cent cage-free
  3. Support the World Sociaty for the Protection of Animals’ call for a recognised certification scheme

Thanks in advance for your support. We gotta take care of these kitties.

 

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.