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Kopi Luwak (civet coffee) anyone?

on 30th October 2014

The Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is believed to seek out and eat the fruits of the Arabica Coffee (Coffea Arabica) at their optimum ripeness (above: flowers; below: fruits with Common Palm Civet insert). As these fruits, often termed cherry, pass through the civet’s digestive tract, the soft outer flesh is absorbed by the civet and the hard seeds passed out from the other end. The scat or poop, as it is commonly known, is easily recognised and eagerly collected, see HERE. The many seeds are collected, washed and processed into coffee powder.

This coffee is known by its Indonesian name, Kopi Luwak, meaning civet coffee. It is only relatively recent that Kopi Luwak found fame outside Indonesia. It has since become the most expensive coffee available. You can buy this coffee in the internet for up to US$200 per 100g LINK. This coffee has even been promoted as “Cat’s Ass Coffee, possibly the best shit on earth” LINK.

Originally the poop is collected from the wild. However, with the high price of luwak coffee, people are farming the civets within enclosed areas where the coffee plants are grown, the easy to collect the poop. Nowadays the trapped civets are kept in cages (below left) where they are fed coffee fruits and the poop collected (below right) LINK.

Traditional farmers scoff at this latter method of farming as the fruits fed are not of the best quality, compared to what the free roaming civets seek them out from the trees. However, in most promotional materials the coffee is falsely claimed to have come from free-ranging civets – see the video by BBC investigative reporters at this LINK.

Project LUWAK Singapore LINK is working to create awareness among coffee retailers and consumers about the cruelty involved in battery farming of civets. Also, check out this LINK.

Now Kopi Luwak has been replaced by Black Ivory Coffee. Produced in Thailand, the coffee seeds come from elephants’ dung, promoted as the world’s rarest and most expensive coffee LINK. Another spinoff is Jacu Bird coffee LINK, collected from the rear end of the generally large sized Brazilian guan birds of the family Cracidae.

But what takes the cake is the “ad on Craigslist offering coffee beans passed through his or her intestinal tract for $30 per pound. And for any customers who need more quality reassurance, the poster writes, “Fecal specimens available upon request.” LINK

Credit: YC Wee (text, image of the coffee plant), Fung Tze Kwan (image of Common Civet) & Pearly Sim (caged civet-collected poop).

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

10 Responses

  1. I’ve had Kopi Luwak a few times & I don’t think much of it. The important part of the coffee process is really in the roasting of the normally-harvested, fully-ripe beans. Kopi Luwak is so highly commerialised that producers confine civets in plots of caged coffee plants & made to slave for them. This is very cruel!

    Nothing beats a cup of well-brewed 100% Arabica if it is #4 or #5 roasted! I will certainly drink to this type of brew in the morning instead of the much touted Kopi Luwak! No more shitty kopi for me folks!

    1. I think the quality of Kopi Luwak is all over the place because a lot of it is fake and the quality of the cherries varies tremendously.

      As for what influences the flavour I agree that roast is important but just as important is the type of coffee cherry, growing conditions, storage, grinder and brewer. Roast itself I think needs to be matched to the bean. For Black Ivory Coffee it is a medium roast coffee as I want people to taste the characteristics of the bean and not be overpowered by the roast (in extreme cases I refer to burnt flavours that overpower the rest of the notes).

      Finally, taste is subjective. Drinking something that is rare or unique or that makes a social impact is not a flavour factor but it does make people appreciate the product more. Think wine or the brand Champagne versus sparkling wine. Can most people tell the difference? I would say no.

      1. Blimey! Someone in Portland, USA? has beaten me to the punch! Check “Craigslist” for Human Poo Coffee. Go get some folks, only $30 a pound. Samples provided FOC too! “Try first, buy later!”

  2. Much to my regret after one time purchase, wildlife documentary reported the horrible welfare and conditions of these civet cats trapped and kept for such purposes sent a chill down my spine.
    It is not much different from harvesting of sharkfins, rhinohorns, birdnests, gallbladders etc. From conservation point of view and cruelty to animals one should not support and so by educating the public not to be taken in to such fallacy and novelty, the practice will eventually dwindle off if the buying stops.
    Hopefully it is just a flash in the pan like any fashion attire.

    Hear from the ‘horse’s mouth-like what Kimosabe also attested, the flavour of ‘civet poo coffee’ is nothing much to ‘wow’ at.

    Japanese Green tea, Chinese tea there is an art of preparation to bring the best brew out the leaves. While fortunate to be shown of the two, I have not met a coffee connoisseur.. YET to show how to make a perfect brew from freshly grounded beans. I am sure for one, those beans need not have to output from any living gut. Ah…why not make life easy..just sit in at Starbucks and let the coffee makers do what they know best!

    Cheers!

    daisy

  3. Good thinking, Daisy. Just you drink normally-produced coffee, green tea, Oolong, Long Jing, Sri Lankan BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe), Dajeeling, whatever & leave the poo coffee to the real experts to enjoy. Salam saya dan selamat malam!

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