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Is Kopi Luwak cruel coffee?

From the January 2014 issue.

It was once considered a rare delicacy, but inhumane farming practices have tainted the international image of Kopi Luwak. Now there are calls to certify the genuine wild product.

Kopi LuwakDepending on who you speak to, Kopi Luwak is either a delicacy, a novelty or the result of a cruel and exploitative industry. But, whether it be through fame or infamy, the global recognition of this unique method of coffee production has grown exponentially in recent years.

Harvested from the faeces of the Asian palm civet, or the luwak as it is known in Indonesia, Kopi Luwak was discovered in the 18th Century by plantation workers who weren’t allowed to drink the coffee being sold by Dutch colonialists. They realised they could collect the beans from droppings instead. Today, this coffee is as well known for its price as its taste profile, with its famed beans attracting prices of more than US$500 per pound.

Proponents of the coffee say the civet is a naturally gifted coffee harvester, selecting only the finest cherries to feed on. This talent is combined with the civet’s unique ability to supposedly improve the taste of the beans while passing them through its digestive tract.

These assertions are not accepted by all in the specialty coffee industry, however.

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