If the high price tag or the fact that it’s sourced from civet poop wasn’t enough to make you a little wary about tasting the world’s most expensive coffee, kopi luwak, maybe the fact that civet coffee production harms animals will scare you off entirely. According to a new study, published in this month’s issue of Animal Welfare, captive civets that are used to produce this coffee are victims of animal cruelty, kept in barren wire cages that restrict the animals’ movements and improperly fed.
This gourmet coffee is kopi luwak, made from beans collected from the droppings of palm civets, and a cup of the stuff can cost as much as $100 in New York City. Traditionally, the beans are sourced from palm civet droppings found in the wild, but as the demand for the world’s most expensive coffee has grown, so has the number of civets kept in captivity to increase the supply.
Researchers from World Animal Protection, a British animal rights organization, visited 16 plantations in Bali, where the civet coffee is created. While this isn’t the first time kopi luwak production has been called out for animal cruelty, this newest study finds that international tourism, in addition to increased overseas demand, is driving the creation of these plantations and perpetuating this abusive system. Dr. Neil D’Cruze, head of wildlife research at WAP and the study’s lead author, explained in a press release, “When tourists see the caged civets, it helps to convince them that they are drinking genuine real civet coffee as part of their tour. Sadly, many tourists are blind to the cruelty associated with caged civet coffee and even line up to take a photo to share on social media.”
This doesn’t mean tasting the world’s most expensive coffee is totally off limits, though. As D’Cruze explained in an interview to Mongabay, make sure the beans you’re consuming are collected from the wild rather than from animals kept on a plantation. “If you must taste civet coffee,” said D’Cruze, “visit a coffee plantation where the civet coffee is made using scat collected from the wild. This at least as the potential of contributing to local tourism in non harmful way.” Or stay away from it entirely because, apparently, the taste isn’t that much better than a regular cup of coffee.