Wave of high profile bad press, including the The Guardian, The Economist, and again (they're loving this) The Guardian have brought the ethical issues of Coffee Luwak to the attention of the world. But is the coffee really worth it? And where can you find ethically sourced Kopi Luwak?
Palm Civet facts
- The Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), or Luwak is native to Africa and south east Asia
- Luwaks inhabit tropical rain forest, eating fruit, and famously ripe coffee cherry
- Throughout tropical south east Asia including - Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, Civet poo is used to produce the very expensive Coffee Luwak
A brief history
In a nutshell... or a pooped coffee bean... Dutch colonizers first introduced a Yemeni coffee beans into Indonesia in 1696. Coffee cultivation grew and spread throughout the archipelago. The Palm Civet soon took a liking to the juicy ripe coffee fruit. After initially trying to get rid of the “pests” from their coffee plantations, locals took the natural step and tried roasting the nutty poop (like you do), word spread, and the rest is history.
An more informative description of the whole Coffee Luwak process can be found here
So is Coffee Luwak that good?
In technical terms, during the digestive process the coffee cherry flesh is removed leaving the coffee bean inside an inner skin, called the pergamino or parchment. The parchment is permeable allowing acids in the luwak's stomach to soak the beans causing the destruction of some of the proteins in the coffee and altering their final taste. It is THIS, that leads purveyors of Coffee Luwak uphold the fine tastes (and justify the a high price). The cynic could be forgiven for believing that it is merely the novelty value of trying cat-crap coffee.
Whilst I am no coffee expert, a major reason for the original quality of Kopi Luwak was clearly the fact that you had these free range animals wandering care-free around the plantations, getting a well-balanced organic diet, and presumably selecting the tastiest coffees cherries.
As coffee blog Sprudge point out, about 80% Philippino Luwak is from caged civets. Furthermore, the high price has led to a huge amount of fake Coffee Luwak, or Coffee Luwak diluted with ordinary coffee.
Ultimately, a lack of market control has made the hunt for genuine free-range Luwak Coffee very difficult.
Genuine ethical Coffee Luwak
Unfortunately most Kopi Luwak comes from caged animals on Luwak farms. To help out the conscientious coffee lover, we have started a list of ethical Coffee Luwak suppliers. If you know any more, please share via a comment below and we will add them once we have checked them out.
- Bali based Animal Coffee sell coffee collected from Luwaks allowed to trott freely around their plantations in Java and Sumatra.
- Exotic coffee claim ethically kept Luwak.
- Rafflesia Luwak, a Sumatra based coffee cooperative employ an all-female workforce and produce organic Kopi Luwak. They pay particular attention to preserving the surrounding ecosystem, especially the civet cat.
- Doi Chaang Wild Thai Civet Coffee is made from the eliminated coffee beans of wild civets that freely roam through the natural habitat of Doi Chang Village. At no time are the civets caged and force fed coffee cherries by the farmers.