We were walking around the streets of Yogyjakarta, having just left the water temple when we noticed a cage with a furry animal in it…on closer inspection it looked like a cross between a ferret and lemur. Scratching my head as to what it was and why it was in a tiny, barely double the size of the animal itself, cage….and……what the hell was it? Our friend and guide Labina said it was a civet cat.
I later Googled this to find out what the hell was going on, this was in the middle of a busy street with one very fed up looking animal. I was shocked to learn that this poor cat is pretty much force fed all day for a complete and utter joke of a reason…..to provide people with a ‘luxurious’ and ridiculously expensive coffee.
To give you a bit of background, Civet palm cats are native to Asia & Indonesia and eat coffee berries as part of their diet…and in turn digest and defecate the berries. As far back as the Dutch colonization of Java and Sumatra the plantation owners would gather these Berries and forbid the natives from doing so which, even back in the early 18th century, made the coffee rather expensive. It was not until Tony Wild, the then British coffee director of Taylors of Harrogate, was the first to import the coffee to the west that the exploitation of the innocent cats really began.
The terms ‘rare and luxurious’ are always attached to this coffee and is, or was, the most expensive coffee in the world purely for the novelty. It can fetch up to 550 Euros per kilo and you can find yuppies sipping away on this on the streets of London or New York for up to £20 per cup. Now whether it is the real McCoy or not is another question as there are many imitations of this coffee and it legally only has to contain 1% Luwak coffee in the mixture to be labelled as Kopi Luwak coffee, so in other words you could be consuming 99% of whatever coffee they have to decided to mix it with.
I was intrigued to taste the coffee admittedly to see why it was so expensive but i had a major problem with the ethical part of keeping these Cats in small cages and forcing them to make money for greedy, lazy…..I’ll let you use your imagination for what I wan’t to call the people that make me ashamed to call myself part of the human race.
After many hours researching we managed to find an Ethical Coffee plantation, a Spa of all places, that does not keep the cats at all and collects whatever it leaves behind on their plantation. We drove the 2 hours north to find Munduk Mondi plantation (click for link to site) which is an organic certified plantation who create coffee and only sell Kopi Luwak if the cats leave them behind. It was very difficult to find the plantation/spa but are glad we made the trip. Its a beautiful spa surrounded by nature in the mountains and not a Nicholas cage in sight. The price of the Luwak was reasonable considering they only get the coffee by chance and do not have cats in cages to force them to make these for them (well I say reasonable still pretty expensive as far as coffee goes).
I must admit the coffee is pretty average and is not filtered the way we are used to so you get a nice mouth full of coffee grains with each cup. It is most definitely not worth the price tag or the effort to get it which makes eradicating the exploitation of these animals a priority. In fairness since Tony Wilds campaign to end the suffering many high street retailers have made it a priority to ensure they are getting fair trade coffee and the cats are not abused.
We are currently working on raising funds and awareness to stop the abuse of these cats to fill lazy peoples pockets and rich peoples pallets. We are by no means trying to put people off having Luwak coffee but would ask that you please make sure that it is certified and humane i.e. do your research before funding further misery.