At Chazzano Coffee Roasters, we receive a daily question from new and regular customers alike: Have you ever tasted Kopi Luwak? My answer is generally deadpan, “Why would I want to drink crappy coffee?” If you haven’t seen the movie, The Bucket List, then you may not know that Kopi Luwak has an unusual path from coffee tree to cup. An animal native to Indonesia, the Asian Palm Civet, eats the choicest coffee cherries, then defecates the coffee beans and digests the coffee cherries. The coffee is then cleaned off, roasted, and sold for $200 per pound. It’s a great business and it is wonderful conversation about specialty coffee. However, with all of the awesome direct trade, high quality specialty coffee available today, why drink coffee that has been digested partially by a little cat?
Surprisingly, the worst part of the entire process is not the fact that the coffee was part of its feces. The biggest problem is the cruelty involved with feeding civets a food that is not part of their diet. It’s similar to feeding corn to cows. Corn-fed cows are bloated with gas, become sick and require medical intervention. In Judaism, there is a clear commandment about not being cruel to animals. Observant Jews are not allowed to cause suffering to an animal in order to procure food. With Kopi Luwak coffee, the Asian Palm Civets are caged and fed only coffee cherries. In many coffee shops throughout Indonesia, it is not unusual to find civets in a cage, malnourished, and force fed coffee cherries. The Asian Palm civet is highly adaptable to different surroundings, however, no animal is adaptable to cruelty.
My third issue with the Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, is that I’m unsure of the Kosher-ness of the product. It is difficult to imagine asking my Kosher supervisors the question: “If a cat eats some coffee beans and then defecates them, am I allowed to wash them off, dry them, roast and sell them? Are we allowed, according to Jewish law, to eat food that was once part of the animal’s digestive system?”
If you ask me about Kopi Luwak, I will supply the usual answer, “Why would I want to drink crappy coffee?” However, the true reason is that there is no food product that is worthwhile if it causes undue stress or pain to an animal. However, if anyone wants to buy some of the best specialty coffee ever, I am willing to sell any of my coffees for $200/ lb.