Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago. It is also widely gathered in the forest or produced in the farms in the islands of the Philippines (where the product is called kape motit in the Cordillera region, kapé alamíd in Tagalog areas, kapé melô or kapé musang in Mindanao island, and kahawa kubing in the Sulu Archipelago), and in East Timor (where it is called kafé-laku)
The luak, that’s a small catlike animal, gorges after dark on the most ripe, the best of our crop. It digests the fruit and expels the beans, which our farm people collect, wash, and roast, a real delicacy. Something about the natural fermentation that occurs in the luak’s stomach seems to make the difference. For Javanese, this is the best of all coffees—our Kopi luak.
Kopi is the Indonesian word for coffee. Luwak is a local name of the Asian palm civet in Sumantra. Palm civets are primarily frugivorous, feeding on berries and pulpy fruits such as figs and palms. Civets also eat small vertebrates, insects, ripe fruits and seeds.
Kopi luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, selling for between US$100 and $500 per pound in 2010.The specialty Vietnamese weasel coffee, which is made by collecting coffee beans eaten by wild civets, is sold at US$500 per kilogram. Most customers are Asian, especially those originating from Japan, China and South Korea.Sources vary widely as to annual worldwide production.
Imitation has several motivations. The high price of kopi luwak drives the search for a way to produce kopi luwak in large quantities. Kopi luwak production involves a great deal of labour, whether farmed or wild-gathered. The small production quantity and the labor involved in production contribute to the coffee’s high cost. Imitation may be a response to the decrease in the civet population.
Initially, civet coffee beans were picked from wild civet excrement found around coffee plantations. This unusual process contributed to its rarity and subsequently its high price. More recently, growing numbers of intensive civet “farms” have been established and operated across Southeast Asia, confining tens of thousands of animals to live in battery cages and be force-fed. Concerns were raised over the safety of civet coffee after evidence suggested that the SARS virus originated from palm civets.
‘”The conditions are awful, much like battery chickens”, said Chris Shepherd, deputy regional director of the conservation NGO, TRAFFIC south-east Asia. “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. There is a high mortality rate and for some species of civet, there’s a real conservation risk. It’s spiralling out of control. But there’s not much public awareness of how it’s actually made. People need to be aware that tens of thousands of civets are being kept in these conditions. It would put people off their coffee if they knew”‘.
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