International Views of Indonesia – 6

fr. The Guardian

Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, is created mainly in Indonesia from beans of coffee berries that are fed to Asian palm civets – small, cat-like creatures found in south-east Asia.

The brand has experienced a recent surge in popularity, fuelled in part by a memorable appearance in the 2007 film The Bucket List, pushing its export price up to $230 (£145) a pound.

Kopi Luwak has spread from Indonesia to the US and Europe, with a London outlet last year announcing that it will charge patrons £70 for a cup.

But its high-end pricing and idiosyncratic origin mask the grim reality of the coffee's production, which has morphed from a casual cottage industry for rural Indonesians to intensive farming.

"The conditions are awful, much like battery chickens," said Chris Shepherd, deputy regional director of the conservation NGO Traffic south-east Asia. "The civets are taken from the wild and have to endure horrific conditions. They fight to stay together but they are separated and have to bear a very poor diet in very small cages."


Civet cat in captivity in Medan, Sumatra

"There is a high mortality rate and for some species of civet, there's a real conservation risk. It's spiralling out of control. But there's not much public awareness of how it's actually made. People need to be aware that tens of thousands of civets are being kept in these conditions. It would put people off their coffee if they knew."

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