When we were in Indonesia in December-January, we got to try Luwak coffee, or Kopi Luwak/civet coffee, twice, once in Jakarta and once in Bali. The concept seemed a bit strange around what is reputed to be the most expensive coffee in the world. The concept behind it is that many years ago, Indonesians noticed that a native cat called the Luwak (or civet in English) loved eating coffee berries, but would not be able to fully digest it. As a result, they pooped the berries out whole, but in that process, the coffee berries were fermented going through their digestive track. Always the resourceful ones, the Indonesians took the berries, disinfected and treated them, and attempted to make coffee out of them. Lo and behold, the coffee ended up being smoother, more robust, and fruitier as a result of going through the civet’s digestive track. They found a new industry: Luwak coffee!
While the coffee was quite good, it wasn’t good enough for us to want to buy it (and pay the very high price for it), so we ended up not buying any of the beans to take home. This week, I finished editing a YouTube video showcasing my first experience drinking this prized coffee. “CAT POOP COFFEE,” we called it.
Out of curiosity, after I posted the video, I did a quick Google search on civet coffee and was a bit appalled at what I found. Many articles have been written about how civet coffee/Kopi Luwak is basically like olive oil, in that over 90 percent of the “Kopi Luwak” on the market is actually fake; no cats pooped these coffee berries out. And what is arguably worse, the civets that actually do eat these coffee berries are oftentimes mistreated and force fed coffee berries, similar to what is debated to be done with ducks in order to make fois gras. So the warning of the articles was all the same: when going to Indonesia, stay away from Kopi Luwak.
Maybe I should have researched that more deeply prior to going. But hey, live and learn, right?
The thing about issues like this is that in countries like the U.S., meat eaters get all crazy about eating animals they deem cute and cuddly, like rabbits or whatever arbitrary animal they refuse to eat, but they don’t think about the entire meat processing industry and how poorly animals are treated, given very little space, no room to exercise and live natural lives, forced to eat food that is not normal, and then killed after just a few weeks of life. I’ve seen photos and read quite a bit about how terrible the meat industry is here in the U.S. Do I still eat meat? Yeah. But I don’t turn a blind eye to the practices and pretend that these animals are given glorious short lives whereas animals like civet cats or ducks making fois gras are tortured. It’s all really the same thing. You can take it for what it is and eat what you want, or just remove meat completely from your diet.
A little part of me does try to be a better consumer, though. I try to buy meat, dairy, and eggs that are organic, as I’ve read that it’s more likely these animals will be fed and treated better, not to mention given space to move around outside. It’s hard, though, living in this country where the “laws” are so loosely interpreted, and food companies can just choose bullshit labels like “free range” when they don’t actually mean anything in the real world. The USDA’s definition of “free range,” for example, is that birds must have “outdoor access” or “access to the outdoors.” Well, that doesn’t mean much at all because that could easily mean that the animal have fresh air coming out of a “pop hole,” with zero full body access to the outdoors and no real space requirement. That is like if I said, as a human, “I have access to the outdoors” when what that really meant is that I had to stay in a dark, windowless room all day and all night, but I had a 6-by-6-inch square that was carved into the room to allow me THAT MUCH light and air from the outside. Pretty “free-range,” huh?