When people talk of specialty coffee, they often mention Kopi Luwak as being the highest of the tiers, the rarest and most expensive coffee on the market. In case you haven’t heard of this ridiculous coffee trend, it’s basically coffee that’s been eaten and pooped out by a small animal. More specifically, the Asian Palm Civet, a small, cat-like creature native to Southeast Asia. The Civet eats the coffee cherry, digests it and excretes the coffee, whereupon it is collected, roasted and sold for ridiculous amounts of money. That’s right, people actually PAY for poop coffee. And not only do they pay, but they pay a lot. And with the rise in this ridiculous trend came the cleverly marketed illusion of deliciously special coffee. Well, we are about to tell you why it’s anything but.
- Coffee that has been pooped out is not delicious.
You’d be hard pressed to convince anyone that consuming something that has passed through the digestive channel of another living thing would taste good. But there are two supposed reasons that the Civet excrement coffee bean tastes better than regular coffee. The first being that the Civet knows how to choose the best beans to eat. This sounds like a vaguely feasible reason – to anyone with no knowledge of coffee. Among a crop of coffee there’s generally only a small percentage of cherries that contain “bad” beans. So for a Civet to choose the “good” beans is not a skill, it’s purely a statistical chance…
The second, because fermentation that occurs inside the digestive tract improves the taste of the beans. The Speciality Coffee Association of America cupped the Luwak beans, and found that they scored two points below the lowest of the other three coffees. “It would appear that the Luwak processing diminishes good acidity and flavour, and adds smoothness to the body, which is what many people seem to note as a positive to the coffee.” In fact this “smoothness” is actually a dulling of the important and delicate flavour balance that naturally occurs in coffee. It’s almost like they have already been used, OH, that’s right, they have already been used…
2. Who would pay that much?
Sure, if you’re a top of the market product then you can definitely get away with charging a premium price. On one website selling to Australia I found Kopi Luwak ranging in price from $149 – $288 per 100g. Per ONE HUNDRED GRAMS. That’s $1490 – $2800 a kilo. What the heck. You would have to be insane to spend that much on coffee, even specialty coffee.
3. Animal cruelty is a sad reality of the industry.
While we would like to think of these fluffy creatures roaming free in the trees and eating as many coffee cherries as their little hearts desire, before settling down to sleep and popping out a pile of very expensive poop, that’s sadly not the case. The rise in popularity of Kopi Luwak has meant that most of the coffee is processed in places compared to battery chicken farms.
“The civets are taken from the wild and have to endure horrific conditions. They fight to stay together but they are separated and have to bear a very poor diet in very small cages.” Chris Shepard
This poor treatment of the animal has caused a high mortality rate and a rapidly increasing conservation risk. Yet another industry exploiting defenceless animals for financial gain.
4. Everything that glitters is not gold.
What’s to stop any mildly savvy, very cheeky, entrepreneur from selling whatever coffee he can get his hands on as Kopi Luwak… After all, if the taste isn’t quite so incredible as they are making out to be, then who would really know the difference? An estimate states that only around 500 to 700kg of the genuine product is produced annually, with MUCH more being sold, which doesn’t quite add up.
So essentially Kopi Luwak is average tasting coffee, with a crazy expensive price point, produced in conditions that are harmful to the poor animals. Also it might be fake. Think twice before you let that charming street vendor in South East Asia sell you “the best coffee in the world.”
If you’re looking for some truly unique and delicious coffee with a story, just try our Colombian Wild Grown Specialty Coffee. It’s grown in the wild Colombian rainforest by the Indigenous Kogi people, who have been there for centuries, tastes amazing and has NOT been pooped out by a small animal.
Photo via Travel Genes.