Kopi Luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee, often retailing anywhere from $100-600 per pound.
Most everybody knows the punchline of this coffee, of course – it’s the “cat crap coffee” from Asia that may or may not taste like shit. Kopi Luwak has been featured by Oprah, CNN, Pawn Stars, and, most recently, in an episode of every specialty coffee lover’s favorite show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, in which Jerry Seinfeld and his guest, Jay Leno, each partake a $75 cup of it. And it’s hilarious to watch celebrities get squeamish drinking coffee that came from a cat’s ass, right??
Har! Har! Har!, right??
What should make these celebrities squeamish, however, is Kopi Luwak’s real origin story.
The story surrounding the production and sale of Kopi Luwak is well-known by now – civets (a wild cat found in southeast Asia) naturally selected, digested, and excreted coffee cherries, which made the civet an enemy of coffee producers. However, after the civet digested the cherry, the bean would show up in its excrement; so the producers figured “Well – let’s just package it like this.” A crack marketing team was assembled, an incredibly high price tag was applied to the packaging, and voila! – Kopi Luwak coffee is now a highly prized commodity. And, hey, if that were still the case, that would be just fine.
However, life today for a civet is very far from this quirky urban legend. In fact, it’s a grim reality which sees civets captured from the wild, stuffed in cramped, tiny cages, living in factory-farm conditions, and force-fed nothing but coffee cherries. The fact that these animals are solitary in the wild is completely disregarded – they are forced to live together in tight quarters, with nowhere to climb or hide. This results in extreme physical and mental injury, and, if the civet is lucky, death. The mortality rate of these cats is incredibly high, but the demand for the product is even higher, so the factory-farming continues.
Luckily, the World Society for the Protection of Animals has stepped up to the plate and has created a petition in an attempt to confront and reform the Kopi Luwak industry. While the WSPA isn’t addressing the fact that Kopi Luwak is one of the most ridiculous culinary fads to emerge in the past century, they’re taking a stand against the industry and informing consumers that they’re being duped; that the Kopi Luwak industry is not actually picking beans in the wild, but is actually the direct result of an animal’s suffering.
I urge all of my readers to watch this BBC report, “Our World: Coffee’s Cruel Secret,” in which reporters go undercover in Sumatra to tour a civet farm, to see for yourselves how cruel this industry is. I further urge you to sign the WSPA petition.
Of course there are other things you can do to get involved:
- don’t purchase Kopi Luwak coffee
- write a letter to your congressperson
- write a letter to any retailer you find selling Kopi Luwak coffee
- spread awareness
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.