World’s Priciest Coffee Marred by Abuse Allegations

Civet coffee was described as the “rarest beverage in the world” in the 2007 film "The Bucket List," and it retails for $105 a cup in London — but a less-than-glamorous scandal may be brewing for the drink

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Richard A. Brooks / AFP Photo / Getty Images

A civet cat in a cage at a market in Guangzhou, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, in 2002

Civet coffee, or kopi luwak, was described as the “rarest beverage in the world” in the 2007 film The Bucket List, and it retails for £70 ($105) a cup in London, but a less-than-glamorous scandal may be brewing for the drink. The globe’s most expensive java, which is made from the feces of catlike mammals called Asian palm civets, is raising concern among animal-welfare organizations, the Guardian reports.

Producers of kopi luwak, based primarily in Indonesia, are facing accusations of “horrific” abuse against the civets, who are kept in cages and fed a diet comprising almost exclusively coffee berries in order to produce a usable excrement. The creation of the predigested coffee has transformed a small rural trade into an intensive farming industry, the Guardian notes.

The reporter from the British paper visited a café on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and discovered a female civet confined to a tiny cage in the back of the shop. The Guardian also found the creature’s two young offspring in a separate cramped enclosure, as well as 20 other civets in concealed cages on the roof of the building.

(PHOTOS: Kopi Luwak: The World’s Priciest Coffee)

According to the paper, animal-welfare groups believe comparable civet “farms” are cropping up across Southeast Asia and creating a serious ethical problem. As of now, tens of thousands of the animals are likely cooped up in cages and forced to live on the unwholesome berry diet. Although Asian palm civets, called luwak in Indonesian, are not endangered, a similar species called the binturong is also used for kopi luwak and has been classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The conditions are awful, much like battery chickens,” Chris Shepherd, deputy regional director of the conservation group Traffic in Southeast Asia, told the Guardian. “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.”

Shepherd said the conservation risk comes from the high mortality rate of some civet species, as those figures are “spiraling out of control.” He noted that there is little public awareness about how kopi luwak is made.

“It would put people off their coffee if they knew,” Shepherd said.

(MORE: What You Should Know About Caffeine)

As of now, civet coffee — which has been praised for its smooth, sweet taste — boasts an export price as high as $230 per lb., the Guardian points out.

Some of the drink’s producers have tried to distance themselves from the abuse allegations. Animalcoffee, which describes itself as a “small boutique roastery” in Indonesia, says its kopi luwak comes from wild civets and it does “not farm or cultivate civets under any circumstances.”

According to the New York Times, there are no available statistics regarding civet coffee’s share of Southeast Asia’s broader coffee industry, but locals have expressed concerns that fake and low-quality versions of kopi luwak have entered the market in a big way.

In the U.S., coffee shops like New York City’s Porto Rico Importing Co. sell the foreign brew, and but it remains to be seen whether there will be any fallout on American shores from the animal-abuse complaints.

MORE: Gastrocrats Beware: Luxury Foods Aren’t Worth It

8 comments
robertwritter
robertwritter

Western Civilizations the biggest hypocrites. It is so nice to teach other cultures how they should live. Hey Franco look they eats monkeys and snakes. Hey John they treat Civets really bad. Hey people from China eats dogs. And So what ?? Tell me who gave  British and other western nations the law to teach whole world how to live ?? Look at your own country In Gb You killed almost everything that it moves where are these big forest in UK ?? Where you can find  Boars ?? Beavers ?? Wolves ?? You even losing red squirrels.  Sorry but you killed everything and now you are trying slowly to reintroduce. Tell me people, who  killing Elephants in Africa ? ( because they want to hunt big Animals) Who throwing out uranium to the Africa ?? I am sure you will say North Korea. The fact is We are greedy hypocrites. I love Weasel Kopi Luwak and will be drinking this coffee because I like it.  Yes mayby I am wrong to do that but at least I will be not hypocrite

.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2191813/Revealed-Shocking-undercover-video-captures-inhumane-butchering-cattle-slaughterhouse-In-N-Out-Burger-chain.htmlDo you think in GB you will find some difrences? I love Weasel Coffee and still will be drinking

http://weaselcoffee.co.uk/

dianayak
dianayak

It is extremely horrifying that people have taken to caging civets. No animals should be put in cages. I started Alamid Café in 2006. I import kopi luak directly from the source in the Philippines and I supply this coffee to Porto Rico Importing Company. I want to assure all of you that the coffee that Porto Rico Importing Company sells is collected far in the north in the Kalinga region and comes from the WILD. We do NOT use beans that come from caged civets and we never have. We are committed to the humane treatment of civets. Any implication that Porto Rico Coffee Company sells any coffee from caged civets is FALSE.

SumedhaMM
SumedhaMM

Man is being more brutal than ever!

ArjanRBakker
ArjanRBakker like.author.displayName 1 Like

Perhaps there should come a special certification for farmers who treat the animals fairly?

swagv
swagv

How about "World's priciest coffee marred by lame quality"?

w8477
w8477 like.author.displayName 1 Like

dkfour--Your logic is moronic at best. I suggest that you be committed to a cage and feed what these creatures are being forced to live on. After one year, lets then see how you will define this %*&)^(% asian crap that has soiled the world. Everyone involved in this process/consumption is a disgusting cave dweller.

dkfour
dkfour

£70 ($105) is an insane price for a cup of Kopi Luwak, and it really should cost about 1/10th that, perhaps as much as 1/5th. Anything higher is a factor of the place selling it in your linked to story, and not the product itself. Also it is "Kopi Luwak" or "Civet Coffee" since kopi means coffe and luwak means civet; "Kopi Luwak Coffee" is just being redundant.