Luwak - Coffee loving Cats

How do you come up with the idea of making a delicacy out of animal excrement? And how can you be sure not to get ripped off in the process?

With the "Kopi Luwak" - or colloquially also cat coffee called - one pays easily over 50€ for a cup from the select, exquisite coffee beans. That makes it the most expensive coffee in the world. Then you should also know what you're getting into.

"Kopi" is simply the Indonesian word for coffee, and "Luwk" among the locals refers to a special creeping cat species from the tropical rainforest, the "spotted musang".

The animal producer

The spotted musang is a typical cat animal. It grows to about half a meter in length and has an equally long tail, with which it can super climb and jump. As the name suggests, it has classic dark spots in its fur and a raccoon like mask on its face. Outside of mating season, it lives solitary and also likes to be near humans. During the day, like most cats, it prefers to lie in a tree or attic and doze until it is time to eat in the evening.

As an omnivore, the musang not only feeds on smaller animals, eggs and insects, but also likes to snack on fruits and berries.

The Dutch brought the coffee plant to Indonesia in the 17th century and opened the first plantations there. In the process, the spotted musang discovered its preference for the red coffee cherries. However, they digest only the pulp and excrete the coffee bean in almost unchanged form.

Noble substitute drink

As early as 1883, German zoologist Alfred Brehm described how local coffee farmers in Indonesia regularly scoured cat toilets for the excreted beans.

The plantation coffee grown was intended exclusively for the colonialists and for export. However, the farmers were allowed to use the pre-digested beans for their own purposes and brew a substitute coffee from them.

This wasn't as bad a deal as it might sound at first.

Gastro-intestinal fermentation

In the digestive tract of the animals, the coffee cherries undergo wet fermentation by enzymes. Certain proteins are broken down. This changes the taste and provides the unique aroma:

Bitter substances are split, giving the coffee a milder and at the same time full-bodied, somewhat musty taste.

British actor John Cleese describes the taste as earthy, musty, mild, syrupy, rich and with undertones of jungle and chocolate.

The bean itself is protected from direct contact with the gastrointestinal contents of the cat by a thin but very resistant layer of parchment.

In further processing, the beans picked up are freed from this layer, cleaned, dried and roasted. In the process, the quality is still dependent on various factors and can fluctuate accordingly.

The consequences of decadence

Over time, the special way of extraction and the exquisite taste has led to a great demand for the luxury drink among connoisseurs. Germany has now become one of the main importing countries.

Its uniqueness and the correspondingly high effort drive the price up and that, unfortunately, also tempts to extreme measures.

On the one hand, there are more and more counterfeits on the market, which can hardly be distinguished from the original by adding various food flavors.

On the other hand, animal rights activists and organizations such as "PETA" have pointed out the terrible conditions under which the creeping cats are still captured and kept. Mostly they are force-fed in narrow grid cages in a mass animal husbandry with the coffee cherries one-sided. Thus one comes better and in larger extent to their excrement.

This leads to deficiency diseases, stress and a high mortality rate among the animals.

As a consumer, however, you are often misled into buying with the false promise of "wild collections". Thus, shit is literally made into gold and unfortunately at the expense of the poor animals.

Further developments

The creeping cats occur in the entire area of South and Southeast Asia. Thus, there is the corresponding comparable coffee in the Philippines under the name of „Kape Alamid“ or „Civet Coffee„, in East Timor as „Kopi Laku“ and in Vietnam as „Cà phê phân ch?n“ (translated: Weasel Coffee).

Coffee beans digested by the Ethiopian civet cat also share a similarity in taste and characteristics.

In order to make production more cost-effective and efficient, research has already been underway for over 20 years to find an alternative option.

In 1996, German scientists were able to isolate six enzymes in the digestive tract of creeping cats on behalf of the Vietnamese company "Trung Nguyen". A patented synthetic solution containing these enzymes was developed to replicate the natural effect.

The New York startup company "Afineur" is also a great pioneer and is trying to revolutionize manufacturing. They deal in coffee beans that have acquired new flavors through synthetic biology and leave out the animal altogether.

Conclusion for personal use

Nowadays, coffee lovers who want to treat themselves to a special treat no longer have to resort to the excrement of the Luwak. And the creeping cats can safely enjoy their occasional nibbles on the plantations without having to take apart their litter boxes.

I personally would like to call for signing the petition against animal cruelty rather than trying to locate an online supplier that you can trust.

Otherwise, the Kopi Luwak despite the best production always contains a bitter aftertaste due to exploitation. One does not have to support every shit!




One thought on “Luwak – Kaffee liebende Katzen”

  1. Ich trinke Kaffee, renne aber nicht jeder Idee hinterher. Ist mir zu aufwändig.
    Ein schöner Italienischer Espresso mit Bohnen von südamerikanischen Kleinbauern.
    Gruss Steffen

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