Why avoid Kopi Luwak?

By Germaine Leng

Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world and sells for roughly $420 per pound. Some claim that the coffee beans that have gone through the civet’s digestive system have a nice and smooth after-taste but others claim that it is likely to be just a marketing gimmick.

Before you purchase a cup, do you know what exactly goes on behind the production scene of kopi luwak?

Coffee beans from wild civet droppings. Image by Jaz Aznar (The New York Times).

Many companies state that their kopi luwak are “genuine and wild”. Genuine wild-sourced kopi luwak beans are harvested from the droppings of wild civets after they pass out undigested coffee beans. This can only be done by tracing the steps of a civet. However, as the demand and value of kopi luwak increases, more people have taken to keeping captive civets to ensure a high and reliable supply of civet coffee.

What’s wrong with keeping captive civets to produce kopi luwak?

Firstly, civets have to be caught from the wild. As the demand for kopi luwak increases, poachers are trapping large number of civets and are thus, threatening the wild population of civets. Previously, only the common palm civet was trapped and used in the production of kopi luwak, but this has now extended to all kinds of civets.

civet cat_3

Captive civet kept in a poor condition cage. Image by surtr (Wikimedia Commons).

Secondly, civets that are caught are then confined to small battery cages. To minimize the space required, cages are stacked on top of each other. This is problematic on several levels. Civets are shy and solitary animals that spend their days sleeping in dense vegetation and foraging at night.

Having so many civets in such a small area causes stress and may result in stereotypical behaviour such as pacing, fights and even paw gnawing. The cages that they are kept in are also bare and they do not have a suitable place to rest in the day.

Caged civet and the yield of kopi luwak beans produced. Image by Kemal Jufri (The New York Times).

Thirdly, to increase the yield of kopi luwak, captive civets are often fed nothing but coffee beans. In the wild, coffee beans makes up only a small percentage of its diet; they feed mainly on fruits and occasionally, on small animals such as birds, reptiles and insects. This result in captive civets being malnourished; many suffer from fur loss, pass blood out in their faeces and will eventually die.

Besides the lack of essential nutrients, the amount of caffeine that a captive civet is forced to eat amounts up to 125 espresso shots. That is 25 times more daily intake of caffeine that a healthy human adult is advised to take.

Because of the un-natural condition civets are kept under to produce kopi luwak, civets have a lifespan of about over a year, when in the wild, they can live up to an average of 20 years.

The truth behind the expensive gourmet coffee is indeed ugly and there is no way of telling whether the kopi luwak that you are going to buy comes from wild or captive civets. Demand for any kind of kopi luwak will only spur people to capture more civets to produce the coffee beans that people crave for. You can do your part for the civets by boycotting kopi luwak and spreading awareness!

13 thoughts on “Why avoid Kopi Luwak?

  1. That’s what happen when greed comes first. In this case, no “maintenance cost” for the prime producer is considered. A total ignorant. Inappropriate wear and tear concept is being practiced. Can they imagine themselves in that kind of situation in their life? Fundamentally breach the rights of living things. Poor creature with poor return. They deserve better (although I do not drink this coffee).

  2. I have 2 questions:
    1. Does ALL kopi luwak producer do this unresponsible thing?
    2. If this info is really true, why do this website creator is hiding behind the anonymousity of the Internet? No name, no contact at all?

    Something fishy here…

    • Dear Julius,
      1. We cannot be certain that all kopi luwak producers engage in such irresponsible practices. However, logically, there is no way the current booming trade can be sustained by wild-sourced beans only due to its scarcity. “Wild-sourced” is a commonly used term for marketing purposes. Unfortunately, there are currently no tests that can determine the origin of kopi luwak in the market.
      2. The names of our volunteers are not listed here so as to protect their privacy. You can contact the project team at projectluwaksg@gmail.com, we will be sure to attend to your queries. Please be assured that the content on this website is properly referenced and reliable.

      Thank you for supporting our cause.

      The Luwak Guardians

  3. While the points are very true and real he conclusions are not. There is significant difference between wild and caged Luwak. The Indonesian government is aware of this tragedy and is strictly looking at the fakes. There is a Certificate of Origen which guaranties where the beans are coming from. Do buy the Kopi Luwak but be sure you know who you buy from and trust their word. I know what I’m talking about for I’m trading with this coffee and helping the communities that have the real shit

    • What certificate is it and who issues it? Corruption is rife in Indonesia, how do we know that these certificates cannot be bought? Since you are trading it, you should do more to educate and share more information on genuine producers here. Similarly do you know which brands of Kopi Luwak are using caged civets?

  4. People shdnt even be drinking this sort of coffee in the first place and to use an innocent animal for our pleasures is jus cruel and stupid whether or not it’s real or fake! Who ever is selling kopi luwak ought to be ashame of urself!!! Leave the poor civet cats alone will ya! Humans are mother nature’s worst enemy! We have stupid pleasures at the expense of poor innocent animals!!!!! Drink normal coffee!

    • You don’t seem to understand about this coffee. This coffee beans ideally collected from civet’s waste. What’s so cruel about that? Only now, some people doing that in incorrect way. Get your fucking facts right before commenting

  5. If you really want to give the truth to public, not just want to spread empty news, why don’t you start by doing some research on how they proccess the luwak coffee in different area. Identify which producers did this horrible things and which producers are actually helping those luwak excrement collectors who go inside the forest everyday to collect. Go to different part of Indonesia: Bali, East Java, Palembang, Jambi, Medan, Aceh.

    I have more concern on these innocent collector since generalization of information may affect their daily income that they need to help to feed their family.

    Maybe you can also identify kopi luwak producer who pays very low to these collectors and get the most of the cash for themself.

    And if you really want to help the luwaks with no hidden agenda, why should you be afraid? Register your organization openly and make you and your group well known. This would make your statements more credible.

    Or join SPCA, and make this as one of your programme, to protect Luwaks from cruelty.

    Btw do you eat meat? Have you ever see how they slaughter the meat that you eat? You should be a vegetarian like me if you love the animals!

    • A few of our team members and supporters have been to luwak farms in Bali and Vietnam, and they observed how poorly treated the animals were, for the purpose of earning tourist bucks. We agree that this could be a generalization that all kopi luwak producers as unethical. If the project team had more resources, we would be eager to conduct more investigations on the ground, and devise means to ascertain if kopi luwak in the market was responsibly sources. However, these are not feasible given the limited resources we are working with. Figuring out the business models of various kopi luwak middlemen/merchants is also not a practical approach that we can take. Therefore, based on credible information available, we advocate that consumers boycott the product to be on the safe side, unless its source is truly reliable.

      Project LUWAK Singapore has just taken off and we are making efforts to make the initiative more well-known. SPCA is supportive of this cause, and will feature us in their upcoming newsletter. Do look out for that.

      Our members are conscious of our meat consumption. In fact, a few of us are vegetarian! Thank you for your commitment to animal welfare.

  6. Germaine, your writing mostly “Totum pro parte”, which may generate public question whether your research was done by yourself or just by heresay.

    Yes you can get public sympathy on this case, but which kind of public you want to target? Those who believe in almost anything, or those who are looking for info based on research?

    I agree that we should not abuse animals, but you must base your statements on real research, which I don’t see here.

    Just a little suggestion…

  7. If you admit that your team could do with more resources, then the responsible thing to do is to hold of on releasing this article. This article only serves to create a hysteria based on nothing but “at a glance” research and heresay, and in itself is not a very ethical journalistic practice. Nowhere in this piece is a link to your source, which will brings the to the careful minds the question whether this is a report on facts or merely expression of personal opinion.

    You might benefit from from a trip around Indonesia and visit the places where they handle the production of this commodity. If anything, it will enhance your knowledge on the subject.

    Good luck.

  8. I agree some companies use this kind of method to gain more profit. But, don’t you think to urge people to stop drinking luwak coffee is unfair to those who really collecting from wild civet’s waste? I think the fairer way to stop this exploitation of civets would be publishing those companies which uses this kind of methods so that the buyers can avoid them.
    There are always some people choose to do business not in a good way to gain profit. Foxconn for instance, treated their employees like those poor civets, so should we urge people to stop buying iPhone as well?

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