What Is Kopi Luwak? Is It Worth Trying Animal Poop Coffee?

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Kopi luwak has an allure in the coffee world due to its eye-watering cost and the way it’s made. Originating in Indonesia, the beans are sourced from the feces of Asian palm civets, which eat the coffee cherries but leave the seeds intact. The result is – apparently – a less bitter and smoother cup of coffee, which, in recent years, has become something of a delicacy in coffee circles.

It also isn’t cheap, holding the Guinness World Record for most expensive coffee. But is animal poop coffee worth trying, or is it just a marketing triumph promising much but delivering only hype?

This article answers those questions and addresses other issues concerning this unusual and expensive beverage. 

What Is Kopi Luwak (Civet Cat Coffee)

Kopi luwak, civet cat coffee, or cat poop coffee, is made from coffee seeds found in the excrement of the Asian palm civet. The animals eat coffee cherries, but the seeds remain undigested. The seeds are recovered from the civet’s feces, washed, cleaned, roasted, and brewed.

The result is supposedly a smoother and less bitter beverage than other coffees because of the unique fermentation that occurs in the civet’s gut. The coffee originated in Indonesia, although variations come from neighboring countries, sometimes called civet coffee, ferret coffee or weasel coffee.

kopi-luwak-coffee-beans

The History Of Kopi Luwak Coffee

The Kopi luwak story began in the 19th Century when Dutch colonists traveled to Indonesia and set the locals to work in coffee plantations to grow coffee for them to export. After a time, some of the workers noticed that the civets were eating the coffee cherries and leaving the seeds intact in their droppings.

Eventually, someone must have taken some droppings, washed the seeds clean, roasted them, brewed them, and then consumed the coffee, and noticed the taste was smoother and less bitter than other coffee. Seeing an opportunity to make money, the colonists began exporting the coffee.

The coffee was a far more niche product until 2003 when it came to mainstream attention when Oprah Winfrey brewed it on TV. Then, in 2007, it featured in the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson blockbuster The Bucket List, which catapulted the coffee into a new level of popularity.

Before these events, only a small amount of the Kopi Luwak coffee beans was made each year. That changed with its new global exposure, and suddenly, it was in demand more than ever before. Unfortunately, with it, the price also rose steeply.

Is Animal Poop Coffee Better Than Regular Coffee Beans?

While many would be tempted to immediately dismiss the idea of the bean being any different from a regular coffee bean, science tells us that the coffee cherry that has passed through the guts of civets has undergone some chemical changes. One of these is that Kopi luwak beans tend to have less protein than regular beans, including Arabica. This is significant because protein can influence the roasting process, leading to more bitter coffee.

kopi-luwak-coffee

So, there is some truth in the notion that Kopi luwak is less bitter than standard coffee. Another difference is that Kopi luwak has less caffeine than regular beans, although only by a small amount.

However, just because the coffee is less bitter doesn’t necessarily make it good. On the contrary, most evidence points to the opposite, with blind tasters tending to report that it doesn’t have a pleasant flavor. Indeed, it’s said to taste earthy, wild, and have low acidity – the characteristics you’d expect of a low-quality coffee.

What’s The Kopi Luwak Price?

As we mentioned earlier, Kopi Luwak isn’t just pricey – it’s officially the world’s most expensive coffee in the world [1].

The most expensive coffee in the world is Kopi Luwak coffee which sells for approximately £215 ($300) per pound (0.45 kg). This is partly due to the fact that there is only 500 lb (227 kg) of it available every year. 

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/76881-most-expensive-coffee

However, the convoluted way it is processed is also a factor. The civet cat lives in the mountains of the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya. There, it eats ripe coffee cherries. Then, workers gather it when it excretes, from where it is cleaned and prepared for sale. Naturally, it’s labor-intensive to produce Kopi Luwak, which adds to the high cost.

Why We Don’t Recommend Drinking Kopi Luwak Coffee 

While Kopi Luwak may sound intriguing and something you would like to try at least once, we don’t recommend it for several reasons, including ethical ones. Let’s look at the key factors.

The Taste

As we alluded to earlier, a primary reason we don’t recommend you drink Kopi luwak is that it reportedly doesn’t taste that good.

Producers of Kopi luwak claim the coffee is intensely aromatic, smoother, and sweet with a complex flavor that’s not bitter. There are also claims that the wild Asian palm civets only eat the ripest coffee cherries, enhancing the flavor.

civet-cat-coffee

This isn’t something the Specialty Coffee Association agrees with (SCAA). It states the taste is poor, saying: “There is a general consensus within the industry… it just tastes bad.”

Other figures within the coffee world have backed up this opinion. Professional coffee tasters have remarked it tastes “thin,” while others dismiss it as a novelty rather than something to enjoy for flavor. Food writer Tim Carmen went even further in his criticism, stating in a Washington Post article that Koopi Luwak tasted like “petrified dinosaur droppings steeped in bathtub water”. He also described it as “a cup of coffee as flavorless as wet cardboard.”

However, even if the taste is poor, is the novelty value alone a reason to try it? Again, we’d strongly argue it isn’t, and this time for ethical reasons…

Animal Welfare

Arguably the most concerning issue with Kopi luwak is the treatment of the animals needed to produce it. A BBC investigation in 2013 shone a light on animal cruelty during the production of the coffee. [2]

Undercover reporters in Indonesia found civets kept in cramped, filthy, battery-cage conditions and forced to eat only coffee cherries. This included a badly injured civet cat. This is in stark contrast to claims that coffee comes from wild civets. 

cat-poop-coffee

Meanwhile, question marks surround even the Kopi luwak marketed as coming from wild civets. From the same report, a former coffee trader said he was “totally convinced” coffee from caged civets made its way to London and said marketing the coffee as “wild” is often misleading.

The whole reason everybody regurgitates that story is that by being incredibly rare, you can keep a ridiculously high price.

Civet cat coffee’s animal cruelty secrets – https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-24034029

Therefore, even if you’ve diligently ensured that the package of the particular Kopi luwak you’ve purchased states it came from 100% cage-free civets that live healthy lives, there doesn’t appear to be any way to be certain that is the case. 

This concern doesn’t just stop with civets, either. Because of the popularity of the coffee, there are many other animal poop coffees on the market, too. So, there are coatis coffee, black ivory (Elephant poop) coffee, jacu bird coffee, bat coffee, and monkey poop coffee, among others.

This all leads to another concern…

Marketing Fraud

Aside from the dubious claims of wild civets in the Kopi Luwak industry, there is another issue, and it’s to do with the amount of the coffee sold against the amount of the coffee produced. Namely, more coffee is sold under the name Kopi luwak each year than the Kopi Luwak production, meaning a good amount of it isn’t even the real thing. 

Related to that concern, many purchasers of Kopi luwak have never tried it before, so they are unaware of its taste. Therefore, some producers use low-quality coffee and sell it for a higher price to cheat the unsuspecting buyer. 

Many Premium Coffee Beans To Try

Considering all the question marks surrounding Kopi luwak, both ethically and otherwise, combined with the considerable price and decidedly underwhelming taste, you have to ask: is it worth it?

When you consider the array of incredible premium coffee beans on the market, we would argue in strong terms that if you want great coffee, there are plenty of other coffee options you can try. 

Many are delicious, but they are also reputable, traceable, and affordable. With more choices than ever, why opt for something with none of those qualities?

Check out our best coffee beans in the world buying guide for more options.

Final Thoughts

Kopi Luwak may seem an intriguing prospect. After all, if you’re a coffee enthusiast with an adventurous streak, it’s natural that you would likely want to at least sample the world’s most expensive coffee to have an idea of what you can get for such a high price. 

Of course, the taste is subjective, so while one person may consider Kopi luwak underwhelming and thin, another might find it perfectly palatable. Despite the cost, many would argue that you’ll never know where you stand until you try it. 

However, it isn’t quite that simple with Kopi luwak. In our opinion, there are too many questionable practices surrounding its production to make it worthwhile before even considering the cost and flavor.  

Not only that but there has probably never been a better time to be a coffee lover when you look at the vast choice of exciting and beautiful specialty coffee roasts on the market.  

So, we suggest steering clear of Kopi luwak and sampling some of the cheaper, ethical, and – most probably – far more satisfying options instead.