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.

OWL Cafe and 10 Scotts@Grand Hyatt stop selling kopi luwak

By Mary-Ruth Low

Disclaimer: We would like to emphasize that credit for the cessation of sales of kopi luwak at the aforementioned coffee establishments are due to the excellent work of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA Asia), and brought to attention by the Shin Min Daily News reporter.

Starting a campaign is no easy task and many a time, news surrounding the cause in question tends to be on the less-than-cheerful side. Once in a while, however, we hear stories that inspire and encourage one to press on and spread the word. In our case, it was the news that two prominent coffee retailers—OWL Café and 10 Scotts @Grand Hyatt—had decided to pull kopi luwak off their menu.

On the 25th of October 2013, Shin Min Daily News新明日报》reported that both OWL Café and 10 Scotts @Grand Hyatt had stopped sales of kopi luwak. This piece of news was received with many cheers! Good job, OWL Café and 10 Scotts! Prior to this, OWL Café had sold ‘100% Authentic Kopi Luwak’ ($18.90) as its signature coffee. At 10 Scotts, their listing of kopi luwak ($68) was accompanied by a detailed description of its history and origins.

According to the article, all restaurants and cafés in Grand Hyatt no longer serve kopi luwak as they value sustainability and food responsibility. OWL Café had decided to stop serving it altogether after discussion at the managerial level. We hope this will send a message to other coffee retailers in rethinking their values and sustainability practices in serving this particular beverage.

A member of our team recently popped in to OWL Café for a bite and was greeted by the following sticker upon opening the menu:

OWL Cafe_menu sticker

Over at 10 Scotts, Mr. Guillaume Delemarle, Director of Food & Beverage, Grand Hyatt Singapore had this to say:

“We stopped serving Kopi Luwak in the hotel after we learned about the cruelty associated with using civets for the production of this specialty coffee.

Our food philosophy within Hyatt focuses on responsible and sustainable food options for guests which are good for the communities, environment and people. Therefore we discussed the background of civet coffee internally and decided commonly to remove this from the menu.”

We are in the midst of writing to local cafés and suppliers to raise awareness of the cruelty behind kopi luwak as well as encourage them to pass on the message to their patrons. One way you can help would be let us know (projectluwaksg@gmail.com) if you chance upon a café or an advertisement promoting kopi luwak. Even better yet, talk to the managers of the café and ask if they know how kopi luwak is produced. If they are willing to find out more, refer them to this website! With the continued engagement with stakeholders and increasing awareness of the treatment of luwaks, we hope for more good news soon. Indeed, it is not too idealistic to hope that we can eventually quell kopi luwak demand and ultimately end local kopi luwak sales.

Let’s make this work! Find out how you can help at https://projectluwaksg.wordpress.com/support/.