As a coffee drinker and a general foreign food and drink enthusiastic, I was unpleasantly surprised when I had a sip of the local Indonesian coffee. With the lack of milk, a pitch black coffee in front of me and coffee particles that were left to settle to the bottom of the cup, my first sip was somehow bland in comparison to the colour and my mouth was left full of grit. Despite the first experience, I was very keen to try the internationally famous Kopi Luwak or ‘civet cat poo coffee’ that I had learnt about the day before I arrived in Indonesia. White Koffie Kopi Luwak was the brand of instant coffee I tried; the taste was unique, milky, round, had a distinct aftertaste and I loved it. This ultimately made me curious about the production process and its value within the industry.
The first video I watched was a short documentary film for Gunung Malabar Kopi Luwak, a Kopi Luwak production company created by Supriatnadinuri and Slamet Prayoga which also doubles up as a civet cat breeding ground, and an available tourist attraction. The video shows the planning and care that they have put into raising and running the Kopi Luwak business, from their spacious and hygienic civet cat living cages, to their nutritionally balanced diet that reflects a wild civet’s diet. Most importantly, these civets live amongst the coffee cherry tree plantations so they’re able to choose the best berries to digest. With a limited number of around 100 civet cats, Gunung Malabar is able to produce a modest amount of 150kg of Kopi Luwak a month, ensuring that the coffee is high in quality (Kopi Luwak Gunung Malabar 2014).
However, with its international fame and a cup selling for $30 to $100 in New York City, there are bound to be businesses that would rather please the industry than keep the civet cats happy (Kwok 2013). PETA’s short video documents the psychotic behaviour of civet cats that are confined in small cages and only fed a diet of coffee beans (Kopi Luwak: Cruelty in Every Cup 2013), which led to former coffee trader Tony Wild’s petition and campaign “Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap” in 2013. Wild’s campaign urges people to stop drinking Kopi Luwak altogether in order to stop the business demand, which is quite an extreme perspective.
My personal opinion is that while it seems like this is the most logical and best thing to do, in any industry there will always be a few cases of exploit, and I don’t believe that Wild’s campaign had a large enough impact to hinder the amount of Kopi Luwak being traded internationally. However, as Wild puts it, the “horrific industry, pandering to the foibles of rich [has led] to the suffering and death of defenceless wild luwaks” (2013) and there need to be clearer windows into what is happening through each business.
Kopi Luwak Gunung Malabar 2014, motion picture, Budi Kurniawan, Indonesia.
Kopi Luwak: Cruelty in Every Cup 2013, motion picture, PETA, Indonesia.
Kwok, Y. 2013, ‘The World’s Most Expensive Coffee Is a Cruel Cynical Scam’, Time, 2 October, viewed 8 April 2016, <http://world.time.com/2013/10/02/the-worlds-most-expensive-coffee-is-a-cruel-cynical-scam>.
Wild, T. 2013, Cut the Crap, Stop Stocking Kopi Luwak, Change.org, viewed 8 April 2016, <https://www.change.org/p/harrods-cut-the-crap-stop-stocking-kopi-luwak>.