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.

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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 – https://projectluwaksg.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/project-a-w-pamphlet-final.pdf

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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A snoozing civet. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

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

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

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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

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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.

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Kopi Luwak Liar. Photo by Joys Tan.

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Mandailing Estate Coffee. Photo by Joys Tan.

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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 projectluwaksg@gmail.com!

Nanyang girls inspired to save the civets!

By Koh Fang Yun, Tan Chor Leng, Claudine & Zhang Junyue

Hello there! We are a group of three secondary 3 students from Nanyang Girls’ High School. We are collaborating with Project LUWAK Singapore to create a new poster to help spread awareness of the cruelty behind the cage-sourced kopi luwak trade.

So what spurred us on? Well, it started on 2nd May this year, when civet researcher, Weiting, came to our school for a talk. We were very much surprised that there were civets in Singapore, but what caught our attention were the means and methods of harvesting coffee beans for a cup of kopi luwak. The civets are used as tools, and they are exploited because of the demand for kopi luwak. We wanted to do something for these creatures! In the end, we chose to design posters to raise awareness of this issue.

Our poster!

Our poster!

We think most people know about kopi luwak, but it is the cruelty behind every cup that needs to be made known. The eventual design for the poster was inspired by the pictographs of different types of coffee (with so many types of coffee available, it can really be confusing!). While most coffees are a combination of espresso and milk, kopi luwak is basically the life of a civet. We intend to use this contrast to bring across our message. We have learnt a lot about civets as well during this process.

Do play a part in helping to save these beautiful civets by not drinking kopi luwak. Tell your family and friends as well.

Updates from the team – Project LUWAK in Singapore and beyond

By Chloe Tan and Gladys Chua

Since Project LUWAK Singapore was founded in October 2013, the team has taken various steps to inform the public about the plight of common palm civets in the caged-sourced kopi luwak trade. Our main outreach strategies include 1) educating merchants/cafes, 2) partnering established animal welfare organisations and 3) spreading the word through social media and public talks. We initially aimed to campaign against kopi luwak locally, but it eventually caught the attention of concerned groups and individuals overseas, and several partnerships were forged as a result. Here’s a look back at our milestones so far and also a glimpse of what’s to come!

Project LUWAK in Singapore

Launch of our infographics

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As a team leveraging heavily on the power of social media, we recruited artist Esther Wee who designed this eye-catching series of infographics. The initial launch received 130 shares!

Partnership with SPCA Singapore

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In January 2014, we linked up with SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Singapore and shared a write-up on unethically-sourced kopi luwak. The kind people at SPCA promptly published an article expressing a strong position against the trade. The webpage directs readers to our blog.

Link – http://www.spca.org.sg/animalwelfare_food_details.asp?id=760

Partnership with Project: WILD (Singapore)

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We also got in touch with Project: WILD (Singapore) who front a campaign against the use of endangered animals for human consumption. Project: WILD is a well-known presence on social media. In March 2014 they shared our infographics on their Facebook page and 104 people subsequently shared the graphics!

Link – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=783811374982188&set=a.780603065303019.1073741826.399923826704280&type=1&theater

Interview with The Online Citizen

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March 2014 was a great month for the luwaks. With the publishing of “10Q – Project LUWAK SG: Putting some serious shit in your cuppa” by The Online Citizen (TOC), a popular site dedicated to cyber activism in Singapore, outreach for our campaign bumped up several notches and also received attention from a new audience. Thanks Howard Lee from TOC for the feature!

Link – http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2014/03/10q-project-luwak-sg/

Civet talk at Nanyang Girls’ High School

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Civet researcher Xu Weiting (a.k.a. Civetgirl) spoke to 430 Secondary 3 students from Nanyang Girls’ High School on 2 May 2014. The girls enjoyed the talk and many were surprised that common palm civets can be found in Singapore! Shocked and dismayed that the kopi luwak trade is inflicting so much pain on these animals, the students paid-it-forward by featuring Project LUWAK Singapore at their school’s Open House on 24 May 2014. Posters were exhibited at the NYGH Backyard and 4 Degrees Cafe to show visitors how each of us can play a part in eliminating civet coffee farms.

Project LUWAK beyond Singapore

Partnership with SPCA Hong Kong

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By collaborating with Jeanna Cheung (SPCA Hong Kong) and Fung Tze Shan (our Singaporean friend), we managed to roll out our infographics in traditional Chinese text, in a bid to bridge the language gap and spread the word!

Linking up with conservationists in Bali, Indonesia

Jonna Lehtinen, a primate conservationist residing in Bali, contacted our team to enquire about the printing and distribution rights of our infographics. She had been interviewed by the local newspaper Bali Advertiser, targeted at expatriates and tourists, about kopi luwak and came across our resource. Jonna is engaging her students in distributing the posters featuring the infographics at various tourist destinations and restaurants in Bali. We look forward to a long-term partnership where word continues to be spread to other parts of Indonesia, such as Jakarta.

Link – http://www.bawabali.com/bawa-news/1-latest-news/217-ethics-in-a-coffee-cup-by-ibu-kat.html

Sharing by animal welfare organisations in other countries

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The power of social media also helped take our movement to other parts of Asia via SPCA Selangor and PETA Asia-Pacific. We are thankful to have friends around the globe who share the same concerns about the kopi luwak industry.

You can help too! Help us further the cause and sign the petition today: http://tinyurl.com/projectluwaksg-pledge. If you have ideas or would like to feature Project LUWAK Singapore in your page or column, feel free to email projectluwaksg@gmail.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.