Coffee culture & appreciation – Where does Kopi Luwak fit in?

By Fahmi Samsuri

No other beverage has a broader worldwide appeal, but coffee.  Coffee is in fact the second most traded commodity in the world, so it is succinct to say that this is a big, big industry.  Having been in the coffee industry for about 4 years, as a barista, trainer and roaster.  From my milk stained glasses, I can see that interest in this wonderful, crazy world of coffee is ever increasing.

Standing from a privileged point of view; being able to interact and educate (both ways) coffee fiends regarding the myriad of coffees available and how to best brew them.  Every so often, questions about kopi luwak pops up.

“Have you tried kopi luwak?”

“What do you think of that cat poo coffee?”

“Is civet cat coffee really worth the money?”

Even before being part of Project Luwak SG, my answers generally lean towards asking them to stay away from the hype and to save their money for coffee that is more value for money (subjective I know, but let me explain in a bit).

“Oo.. yeah. Tried that, only cause someone got in a sample for us to try for FREE.  No way would I spend my money on that.  I am a bit of a cheapo, even $5 for a latte is expensive to me!  Why do you think I became a barista?  Jokes aside,  I am of the opinion that it is massively overpriced for a cup of coffee that does not provide me with the satisfaction a $6 specially brewed coffee sourced from a farm that strives to take care of its harvest, environment and people.”

I try not to go overboard, reckon they wont appreciate a lecture from a hipster barista (you guys view us in that light dont you! =p) for a seemingly innocuous question.  Having said all these, I can understand the lure of kopi luwak, it bodes well with the palates of Singaporeans generally as we mostly grew up drinking bold, strong coffee.  Thus, the taste from kopi luwak can be deemed desirable as it does not give off any of those “acidic traits” from specialty coffee and especially those served in most new cafes nowadays.  However, I am still firm on the view that kopi luwak is of an excessive indulgence, and for the same money, you can buy yourself 20 kopi pengs from our kopitiams (support local!!).

Countries like Indonesia truly produces amazing coffees from regions like Sumatra Mandheling, Sulawesi Toraja and how can one miss out Bali Kintamani.  These coffees my friend, are perfect for those who want an exquisite, mind bogglingly yummy taste without the much maligned acidity associated with coffees from countries such as Ethiopia or Kenya.  Do not get me wrong though, I love fruity, acidic coffee as I personally have a penchant for sour foods.  So here comes my point that yes, coffee taste and preference is subjective indeed, but the world is full of amazing coffees we have not tried yet.  Friends, I urge you to spend the money on discovering the wonderful variety of coffees out there, instead of splurging it on kopi luwak.  The civets (and your conscience) will love you for this.

Choose to have a wildlife cruelty-free holiday

By Xu Weiting

Planning a vacation soon? Want to have an enjoyable trip without unknowingly supporting attractions with wildlife-cruelty practices? World Animal Protection (WAP) at the start of 2016, started its campaign on “Wildlife, not entertainers”, where wildlife entertainment attractions are evaluated based on

  1. the level of animal welfare given to the animals in their care &
  2. their contribution towards improving the animal’s conservation status

Visiting civet coffee plantations made it to the list as one of the top ten cruellest tourist attractions. As a follow up to this, WAP released a 36 page report on “Checking out of cruelty“. This report is the findings from a commissioned research study done by the University of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).  In the report, the origins of kopi luwak and how it evolved to be a damaging trade to civets is succinctly explained –

A single cup of civet coffee or Kopi Luwak, fetches up to $100. Civets love to eat coffee cherries and Kopi Luwak coffee is made from the beans within the cherries that the civets excrete in pellets.

When the pellets are collected from civets in the wild, no cruelty is involved. But in an attempt to produce more civet coffee, farmers have started catching the civets and keeping them in small, crowded barren cages. Caged civets are encouraged to gorge on an unbalanced diet of coffee cherries.

This unnatural captivity and forced feeding results in injuries, disease and poor nutrition. Many show signs of great stress, including pacing and self-mutilation.

There is now a growing civet coffee plantation tourism industry in Indonesia where tourists visit caged civet cats and sample the coffee. This is causing more and more civets to be caged and abused.

Exercise your choice to not visit these attractions and purchase products that exploit wild animals for profits. When planning your holiday, do remember that wildlife should best be appreciated in their natural wild habitats and not as entertainment.

For more articles reporting on the WAP news release:

Video by Raffles Girls’ School on the cruelty behind kopi luwak

By Project A.W., Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary)

Hello! We are Project A.W. (Animal Welfare), a Community Problem Solving group consisting of eight Year 3 students from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary). We aim to intensify the society’s pro-activeness towards animal cruelty so as to ensure the well-being of animals in Singapore.

Our belief is that everyone plays a crucial role in protecting animals. In this blog post, we hope to share insights on the horrors behind civet coffee production.

Some know civet coffee as the most expensive coffee, while others drink it for its exquisite taste or to appease their curiosity (arising from the high price tag). However, not many know about the suffering that goes behind it. Civets endure so much just for a handful of coffee beans and a cup of coffee. While we indulge in a cup of this beverage, these animals suffer long-term health issues. Our group truly feels for these civets. Do the reasons for civet coffee production really justify the means through which they are acquired? Can we really place our own superficial pleasure over their entire lives and well-being? We hope to spread awareness on the cruelty of civet coffee production, and to encourage the public to opt for alternatives.

We hope that our video and pamphlet will help you better understand the origins of civet coffee, and entreat you to leave with the following question:

Will I take part in civet coffee consumerism?

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 1).

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 1).

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 2).

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 2).

Link to pamphlet PDF –

The Economist’s free coffee drive done in bad taste?

By Claudia Ang

You’re walking down a busy street during lunch hour.  A man approaches you. “Free coffee?” he asks. You’re startled, and then you realize that he isn’t alone. There’s an entire truck right behind him giving out cups of coffee to the public. What’s going on? you think. It takes a while to sink in. It isn’t just normal coffee. You find that it’s free civet coffee in exchange for an introductory subscription trial to The Economist, a popular business magazine. A complete foot-in-the-door marketing technique.

What would you have done?


(Image from mUmbrella Asia.)

It’s not the first time The Economist has pulled off a stunt like this. The campaign in Singapore is merely a continuation of its campaign efforts in the UK, Netherlands, and Northern Island in bid to increase magazine subscriptions. In exchange for a free cup of Kopi Luwak (which can range from $60 to $80 a cup), the passers-by are offered a month-long subscription for only $5. It seems that such a tactic has proven to be successful in the UK, with the marketing company Sense clinching the best Direct and Promotional Strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards 2015, and The Economist getting over 4000 subscriptions as a direct result of the campaign.

Read about it here.

The Economist has also publicly made known their awareness of captive civet coffee and its cruelties, and has in turn made an assurance that the coffee which they were giving out is wild-sourced. The footnote in marketing agency Sense’s article reveals: We are aware that there are unscrupulous producers of kopi luwak coffee. The Economist has received assurances from its suppliers of kopi luwak used in our promotional campaigns is 100% ethically produced. Yet, we hear that all the time from Kopi Luwak producers, regardless if they are from wild or captive civets.

So here’s the dilemma: is it ever okay to drink Kopi Luwak?

On one hand, we know that Kopi Luwak is part of Indonesia’s culture. They’ve been harvesting the beans for centuries. There are farmers who do it the traditional, ethical way – that is, to forage for the beans on their plantations in the early mornings and thereafter spend their afternoons cleaning, drying and roasting the beans.

On the other hand, there are also farmers who resort to scrupulous means in order to make a quick buck. Kopi Luwak is a lucrative industry – everyone wants to have a hand in it. This has resulted in more and more people going out into the wild and capturing civets of all kinds, even the threatened Binturong, in order to produce the beans. The civets live in horrific conditions. Most of them do not survive.

Thankfully, there are certifications from organizations such as UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance that help us in identifying ethically-produced Kopi Luwak. Simply put, if you ever come across Kopi Luwak that does not have these certifications, they are more likely than not to have come from captive civets.

But let’s go back to the point. Would you have taken a cup from The Economist should you have passed them? Let us know what you think.

Getting the message across at the Festival of Biodiversity

By Claudia Ang

“It’s better to drink milo,” said one of the children I was speaking to suddenly. I looked at him, bemused and yet intrigued because he had a straight face on, while the other children giggled and their parents laughed in view of his innocence and curt honesty.

He meant every word he said.


(Photos by: Claudia Ang, Festival of Biodiversity Singapore)

We were at the Festival of Biodiversity held at Vivo City earlier in June 2015. I was just speaking to the children about our native civets when we came to the topic of Kopi Luwak. The story of the civets’ captivity and exploitation as a result of the Kopi Luwak trade caused their faces to twist in grimace. Their eyebrows furrowed, in sadness and in anger, and perhaps also in the inability to comprehend how or why us humans could allow such unnecessary abuse to occur just in exchange for some coffee beans. In that instant I knew that through our brief encounter they already had within them an appreciation for the creatures, for their beauty and sheer existence.

That’s when he said it. “It’s better to drink milo.” I looked at him expectantly, urging him to continue explaining his point of view to the other children. “Milo is good and it gives us energy too. It’s also sweet and chocolatey, not like coffee. We shouldn’t use the civets in this way. No matter how good it tastes, it’s not right.”

I gave him a badge with a picture of the common palm civet, shook his hand, and said, “Now will you please do me and the civets a favour? Share this story to all your friends, your family, and everyone who doesn’t know about it yet. Help us help the civets, okay?” He nodded, thanked me for the badge, and went away with his parents.

I was brimming inside. Getting the message across to as many people as we can has always been the goal, but it’s conversations like these that always brighten up my day, when I’m offered another point of view or alternative that helps us look at the entire issue in a separate person’s shoes. Children see it that way – they see no need for the abuse or the exploitation or the coffee beans itself. There are so many other drinks and types of great coffee that do not require the sacrifice of lives in order to produce.

It brought me back to the event we had two weeks earlier at Pulau Ubin in celebration of Ubin Day. People were horrified to learn about the living conditions of Kopi Luwak civets, and yet were able to readily admit that they have tried the coffee before. There’s no difference, they say. It’s just a marketing tool to get more money.

I will never know what real Kopi Luwak tastes like, because I’m sure I will never try it. But the point is, why waste all that money on these “exquisite” produce when you can get real, good, alternative produce at a lower cost?

Sale of kopi luwak in Indonesia

By Joys Tan

While travelling in Indonesia late last year (Aug – Dec 2014), Henrietta and I chanced upon the sale of kopi luwak in various places separately. Here are some pictures taken by us:

1. Central Java

On flight to Indonesia, Henrietta noticed an advertisement of kopi luwak in the magazine. It wasn’t unexpected as Indonesia is its place of origin.


A kopi luwak ad in AirAsia magazine. Photo by Henrietta Woo.


Sale of kopi luwak at a store in Borobudur, Magelang. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

2. Bali

Bali has numerous coffee plantations and agro-tourism centred around them are heavily marketed with a seemingly high take-up rate among tourists. Read about the Pearlynn’s recount at a kopi luwak farm in Bali early last year here.


Entering a coffee plantation in Bali. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

What first struck me was the obvious lack of vegetation cover for the civet to hide and lack of branches for the civet to climb or sleep on.The floor was concrete, bare and covered with what appears to be algae. Nearby, a civet was spotted exposed and resting on sparse vegetation cover, with sunlight shining directly onto it. Civets are nocturnal animals and in a natural setting, they would seek out a sheltered place to rest.


A typical cage for housing civets in the plantation. Photo by Henrietta Woo.


A snoozing civet. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Just one of the many sellers, the name ‘Smiling Coffee’ is pretty ironic.


Poster in the store by Smiling Coffee. Photo by Henrietta Woo.


Sale of kopi luwak by Smiling Coffee. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Kopi luwak is (unfortunately) widely sold in the big supermarket at Ubud and at the airport.Bali18

Bali17  Bali21

3. Batam

Also in Batam, kopi luwak was spotted in a provision store near the ferry terminal. There are two brands on the shelf: Mandailing Estate Coffee and Gunawan Brother Indonesia.


Kopi Luwak Liar. Photo by Joys Tan.


Mandailing Estate Coffee. Photo by Joys Tan.


The certificate of authenticity does not guarantee that the kopi luwak is wild. Photo by Joys Tan.

Mandailing Estate Coffee states that it produces “authentic wild kopi luwak“, “certified premium kopi luwak” and “processed naturally in the wild” on its packaging. It even had a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ attached. Regardless of how awesome it sounded, I was not convinced at all. After some research, I knew my intuition was right – it is not true at all.. In the campaign document published by Tony Wild, the founder of Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap, it stated that:

“There is currently no independent certification body for wild kopi luwak. Any such certificate is issued by the plantation, shipper or retailer itself, and, as such, is meaningless. Other certificates may contain an assurance that the kopi luwak does come from a certain plantation or district. This gives no guarantee that the kopi luwak is wild.” (Section 6, p13)
Until there is an independent certification body to identify ethically wild-sourced kopi luwak, not supporting its sale or trade anywhere can go a long way in reducing demand and thereby allowing civets to continue living in the wild. If this resonates with you, join us by pledging your support.

Vet students in Bali spread the word about unethical kopi luwak

By Chloe Tan

In February 2014, Jonna Lehtinen, a primate conservationist residing in Bali, Indonesia, contacted our team about distributing our “Life Behind Bars” infographic at major tourist destinations. She helps at a local rescue centre and works with veterinary students. She is also doing independent research and public education about kopi luwak, which is largely derived from caged civets, and is very popular in Bali.

Recently, we received news that she had engaged her vet students from Udayana University in Denpasar, Bali, to distribute posters in the southern part of the island.

Vet students with the "Life Behind Bars" posters that they distributed in Bali.

Vet students with the “Life Behind Bars” posters that they distributed in Bali.

Thank you Jonna and students for spreading the word!

Calling animal welfare supporters around the world! Is kopi luwak widely sold in your country? If you would like to collaborate and help raise awareness about this cruel trade, contact our team at!