The Ugly Truth about the Most Expensive Coffee in the World

Behind the most expensive coffee lies animal cruelty.

Civet coffee or Kopi luwak in Indonesian, is a variety of premium coffee that costs $30 to $100 per cup in New York City and London. According to a study, the coffee is made of beans excreted by wild Asian palm civets. The civets’ digestive system then gives the kopi luwak a rich aroma and smooth flavor. It may appear gross to others but what is worse is the cruelty behind the manufacturing of the coffee.

As investigated by journalists and human rights activists, it was found out that the industry is practicing animal cruelty.

The Times reported, “To satisfy global demand, many suppliers keep captured civets in cages and feed them almost exclusively on coffee cherries. Enduring appalling living conditions and an unhealthy diet, these nocturnal omnivores suffer mental distress - incessantly pacing and gnawing on their limbs - and succumb to illness and death.”

Coffee trader Tony Wild introduced the coffee to the Western world in 1991. It gained worldwide recognition after being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2003. Its all-natural origin was make known in a Jack NicholsonMorgan Freeman scene in the 2007 film The Bucket List.

Wild, after hearing the avaricious industry, initiated a social-media campaign “Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap,” convincing customers to stop consuming the product.

“A rise in the demand for the coffee along with the huge price it commands means that wild civets are now being illegally poached in the jungle, caged in cramped prison-camp conditions and force-fed coffee cherries to mass produce the coffee. I am devastated that my discovery inadvertently led to this cruel animal sweatshop trade ... leading to the suffering and death of defenseless wild luwaks,” he said.

Indonesian Civet Coffee Association founder Teguh Pribadi supported the claim, “The luwaks aren’t treated well. Many farmers don’t understand how to keep the animals properly.” Thus, the association recommends the civets be kept in cages that are at least 2 m by 1½ m wide and 2½ m high, and for no longer than six months.

“We tell farmers to focus on the quality, not the quantity of the product. It’s better if they produce little but superior coffee, and don’t have dying civets,” he added.

In Indonesia, 1kg of roasted beans cost as much as $130. It is packed in a Britannia-silver and 24-carat gold-plated bag and sells for over $10,000. The reason for its expensive cost is it is sourced from wild animals plus only 500 kg is collected annually. According to the Times, “By one estimate, 50 tons of mass-produced civet coffee from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China flood the market every year.”

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The Ugly Truth about the Most Expensive Coffee in the World