In the 19th and 20th centuries, Indonesia was under Dutch colonialist rule. It was during that time that the locals made a very interesting discovery. Under Dutch rule, the locals weren’t allowed to harvest coffee for their own use. They found another way to get coffee, and it happened to be better than the coffee that they weren’t allowed to harvest.
A couple hundred years ago, conventional Indonesian coffee was not very good. In fact, coffee around the world didn’t taste nearly as good as coffee today. They came upon the discovery that the Civet cat, or luwak, a small, solitary, nocturnal feline that lives in Indonesian rainforests, would eat coffee cherries and not digest the coffee beans. When they brewed coffee beans that had passed through the digestive track of a Civet cat, the taste was far more appetizing than the normal coffee of the time.
And so it became popular. If people wanted good tasting coffee, they would get it from the feces of a Civet cat. During digestion, the Civet cat’s enzymes would strip off all the little fruit bits from the bean, leaving the farmers a bean that would not ferment or mold during the drying process.
It seemed like a breakthrough in science! The Civet cats would only eat the perfectly ripe beans, bringing forth better quality coffee. It was easier, tastier, and better for profit.
Although it may seem amazing, there are many problems with this kind of coffee, called Kopi Luwak, and the problems are tremendously important to know about.
First off, it is as hard to find as real saffron in Morocco. 80% of all coffee claimed to be Kopi Luwak is fake. Most of it hasn’t been close to a Civet cat. Even if you manage to get real Kopi Luwak coffee, you will be drinking something nothing short of feline slavery.
“The naturally shy and solitary nocturnal creatures suffer greatly fron 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 scats, and frequently die.”–Tony Wild, The Guardian
Kopi Luwak gained a very tasty reputation a couple hundred years ago, and it is the most expensive coffee in the world. You could pay $100 to $600 on one pound of ground coffee beans that were force-fed to Civet cats, animals that are kept in cages in close quarters with other cats that have been fed overdoses of caffeine day after day.
Below: Two Sleeping Civets and an ad for something that is more cruel than it sounds