5 reasons you should avoid Luwak coffee in Bali

Luwak coffee in Bali

I’m not a big coffee drinker. In fact, not at all.

But when I got the chance to visit a coffee farm in Bali and learn about the world’s most expensive and unique coffee, kopi luwak, I was intriuged.

Balinese kopi luwak is a type of coffee that comes from cherries that have been consumed, digested, and excreted by the Asian palm civet (also known as a luwak). It’s a small mammal that looks like a cross between a cat and a raccoon.

The ‘Bali poop coffee’ is known as the world’s best cup of coffee and lapelled as wild-sourced. But reality is that most kopi luwak is produced by civets held in inhumane and horrible conditions.

Here’s why you should avoid drinking luwak coffee in Bali.

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What is Luwak coffee?

Luwak coffee is made from coffee beans plucked from droppings of the luwak.

It’s known as the world’s most expensive coffee and can be found in cafés and coffee gardens in Bali, and elsewhere.

In the last 20 years, Kopi Luwak has become a luxurious and highly sought-after coffee, achieving celebrity status in its own right.

It’s now stocked by specialty retailers around the world and has even made appearances on popular media outlets such as CNN News, Oprah, and The Bucket List – a Hollywood film featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

avoid Luwak coffee in Bali
Luwak coffee in bali

How is luwak made?

The unique and highly coveted taste of kopi luwak comes from its journey through the digestive tract of the luwak.

Unable to digest the cherry stones (i.e., coffee beans), the luwak excretes them along with its other droppings. These beans are then collected by farm workers and thoroughly cleaned before being dried in the Indonesian sun.

Following this, they are washed once more to ensure complete removal of any remaining outer shells.

Then they’re roasted, grounded into powder and boiled – and voila! Supposedly the world’s best cup of coffee: kopi luwak.

luwak coffee in Bali

Why is Luwak so expensive?

Kopi Luwak is the world’s most exclusive and expensive coffee, largely due to the way it’s produced

The exotic coffee sells for $30-$100 per cup and $100-$600 per pound.

The world’s best coffee?

For generations, Indonesian coffee producers have touted kopi luwak as the world’s best-tasting coffee. Supposedly, the aroma is rich with a hint of chocolate, and has a caramel and earthy finish.

This is due to a few factors:

  • Civets are selective eaters and only consume the ripest coffee cherries.
  • Their digestive enzymes alter the proteins in the coffee beans, reducing acidity and resulting in a smoother cup of coffee.
  • Digestion removes any remaining fruit pulp that may be left on the bean during processing.

Luwak coffee in bali

5 reasons to avoid Luwak coffee in Bali

Just like foie gras, luwak coffee in Bali is made by force-feeding the animal. Even if you don’t care about animal welfare, there are other reasons to avoid buying and drinking kopi luwak. Here are the top five reasons:

1. It’s cruel

Originally, kopi luwak coffee in Bali comes from the droppings of wild luwaks, eating only the best, most ripe coffee cherries.

But during the last 20 years, it has been industrialised and overpriced. Today, luwak coffee mainly comes from caged wild luwaks, often kept in horrible conditions.

Luwak coffee is animal abuse.

They have no access to a dark, quiet place to rest during the day and are exposed to sunlight for long periods, leading to poor health and discomfort.

Many suffer from painful wounds that go untreated, while others display abnormal behaviour such as self-biting and pacing back and forth – signs of severe psychological distress. They are also forced to eat coffee beans.

bali coffee animal

2. The luwak industry could start the next pandemic

Luwak coffee is harvested from feces. Despite the health risks associated with consuming this product, it’s still exported worldwide.

A PETA investigation has found that the industry has been linked to SARS and can cause the next pandemic. After the SARS outbreak in China, it was discovered that the SARS coronavirus had jumped from civet cats to humans.

Scientists have also identified civets as a possible “intermediate host” for COVID-19, which could potentially allow the virus to mutate and spread from bats to humans through these animals.

3. You’re probably getting ripped off

While luwak coffee in Indonesia was once produced from wild civets, it’s not anymore.

Instead, the industry intentionally mislabels luwak coffee made from captive luwaks.

Truth is, there’s now no way to tell whether kopi luwak is made from wild or caged civets.

4. The quality isn’t that good

The luwak coffee has been touted as the most exclusive coffee in the world. But is it really that good?

I haven’t tasted luwak coffee myself, but Specialty Coffee Association and Nordic Coffee Culture have written it off as great marketing for bad coffee.

While the digestive process of civets does make coffee smoother, it also removes the good acids and distinctive flavour that define a specialty cup of coffee.

Also, by caging the animals, they are unable to select only the finest and ripest coffee cherries.

Bottom line, there is better coffee out there.

kopi luwak bali

5. Help stop the demand

By boycotting the purchase of civet coffee, you can help reduce demand and thereby decrease prices.

When prices drop, it will no longer be profitable to subject civets to cruel conditions. This is one way that you can help put an end to the abuse of these animals and travel responsibly.

bali coffee poop

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  1. Yep, I would definitely try poop coffee haha. I’m a total coffee addict so if it’s the best coffee in the world, I’ll give it a go! These photos are beautiful too 🙂

  2. I went on a very similar bike tour in Bali and loved it! I’m not a coffee drinker either but enjoyed the samples I tried, my favourite was the creamy pandanus tea, which tasted like caramel, did you try that? Our only concern was the captive Luwaks – even though our guide told us they were only kept in cages for three months at a time and then released back into the wild, I wasn’t sure whether this was true or not and for that reason I probably wouldn’t try the Luwak coffee. Did your guide mention anything about this issue? I had the same worries when we took a tour in Dalat in Vietnam and were shown weasels used to make weasel coffee; they were kept in far worse conditions than the Luwaks, crammed into tiny cages, it was horrible to see.

    1. Amy, I agree with you! I visited two coffee farms and they treated the luwaks differently – at one of them, the luwaks were trapped in small cages and at the other they had a much larger cage with trees and space to move around. I did not appreciate the first place I visited, but the guide explained that they were not trapped all day. I’m not sure I believe him, though. Unfortunately, animals are often mistreated throughout Southeast Asia. It breaks my heart every time I see it.

  3. I love Indonesian coffee, especially Luwak coffee, the best stuff comes from the forests where it is literally picked up from the ground, incredibly expensive though!

  4. Hey Miriam

    The Luwaks are so cute!! I’ve never seen one before, but they’re adorable!!

    Not sure if I’d try the coffee or not… I think maybe it depends on how it’s prepared? A good espresso should be at 95 degree C which would kill anything nasty, but if it’s just steeped it might not be hot enough to kill nasties… though I suppose it’s already been roasted…

    I’d be curious!! But I don’t know if I’d do it or not!! The point about the Luwaks being in tiny cages in a persuasive one though. Poor little things…

    Martina 🙂

  5. I am a complete coffee psycho. I would have gobbled up that poop in a second but like many others have mentioned perhaps I wouldn’t because of the treatment of the animals. I wonder if it is hypocritical to feel this way but still eat all sorts of meats…hmm…I don’t know.
    We are actually trying to decide if we want to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines. I’ve heard that it is bad for their environment but others says it’s fine…I haven’t decided yet.
    Have you ever been to Flores Island? From the looks of it, you would love it.

    1. I think the difference is that you see the mistreatment here. In Denmark some egg producers are really inhumane and there’s focus on it in the media which has resulted in people boycotting these egg sorts – myself included. However, if people hadn’t been confronted with it I’m not sure they would care as much. The visual has a strong impact!
      Regarding the whale sharks – I went swimming with them in Mexico and I’d do it again. As long as you don’t touch them, you’re not harming them. At least that’s my opinion.

    1. They’re good, right? I think I liked them because they actually didn’t taste of coffe – especially the coffee ginseng, which was my favorite.

  6. Hey there! this trip looks awesome, do you have a link or an idea of where to book this tour? I am trying to get a good sense of our plans for vacation and this looks like a must do!

    1. Hi Stacey.
      No sorry, I booked the tour through my hotel. There are lots of tours like this one though. You can easily find a similar one when you get there.

  7. Hi Miriam,
    I would like to go to that farm as I want to see coffee, tea, cacao, cinnamon and vanilla. This sounds like a good place to go to. Can you give me the name of the farm and/or the address? I will be in Bali in two weeks or so.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Vera,
      I don’t know the name of this particular coffee farm as I went there on a mountain biking day trip. There are lots of these coffee farms around Bali so you’ll have no problem finding a similar one.

      Have a great time in. Bali is amazing!

  8. Oh, I wish I could try that coffee! As to kites – we have been to Bali and visited a kite festival – it was amazing! Too bad we forgot about that famous Luwak poop coffee… How much does it cost, by the way?

    1. Yeah, it’s a unique cup of coffee that’s for sure 🙂 I don’t know what it costs, but I do know that it’s the most expensive coffee in the world.

    1. Hi Aleks,
      Yes, you’re right. I’ve read up on the topic since I wrote this post in 2014, and I have altered it altogether. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, so I can help spread the word.

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