kopi luwak
Photo via catpoopcoffeeinc.com

Are you a bit squeamish? Fair warning.

We get a lot of questions about civet cat coffee, so we’re explaining the trend of sourcing beans that are harvested from animal feces. You’ve probably heard about this stuff – and about its price. So let’s delve into this somewhat strange specialty coffee trend.

Civet cat coffee, called kopi luwak, is the partially digested coffee beans expelled by the Indonesian civet cat. In the wild, civet cats tend to eat the ripest coffee cherries, meaning the beans that show up in their feces are the best of the crop. Their stomach juices act as a way to process and ferment the coffee, and the animals basically function as a living coffee pulper.

The thing is, the exclusivity of this coffee and its resulting super-high price point (sold for $35 per cup in some shops) has created an exploitive industry where hundreds of civet cats are kept in cages, fed low-quality coffee cherries, and for what? Kopi luwak has never rated as a specialty coffee, and is not widely respected among coffee professionals. There’s no significant scientific difference from coffee beans processed traditionally and those processed by an animal’s stomach. Black Ivory coffee is harvested from elephant poop and while there’s not an exploitive trend as there is around kopi luwak, we still have to ask – but WHY?!

The way we see it, there’s no reason to bring animals into the coffee process. It doesn’t improve the taste, there’s the potential to exploit and harm animals, and it artificially drives up the price without a corresponding increase in quality. It just doesn’t make sense. You can spend $35 on a cup of poop coffee, or you can spend the same amount on a whole bag of meticulously cultivated geisha beans. We promise, it’ll taste better.


  1. I would like to correct you on Black Ivory Coffee. First, unlike civet coffee, Black Ivory Coffee helps not hurts animals. Elephants eat coffee cherries naturally in the wild and at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation where I produce Black Ivory Coffee, the elephants voluntarily snack on them should they wish. In addition the women from the elephant owning families can earn in 45 minutes what is a legal day’s wage in Thailand (US10-15/hour). T

    The taste of Black Ivory Coffee is distinctive. It starts with 100% Arabica coffee cherries picked at an altitude of roughly 1500 meters. The cherries are then mixed with fruit or other food that the elephant enjoys such as banana, rice, tamarind etc. Each elephant has its own recipe because they should enjoy what they eat and gain nutritional advantage. These added fruits will affect the taste. The digestive system of an elephant is that of a herbivore. This means it uses fermentation to break down cellulose. In the same way that grapes are placed into a vat to ferment to make wine (or whiskey, beer or chocolate) the coffee cherries ferment up to 70 hours in the stomach of the elephant. Dr. Marcone who is a Food Scientist with the University of Guelph who would be happy to back up my assertion as he is the scientist I worked with.

    Finally, it takes 33 kg to make 1 kg of Black Ivory Coffee. It addition to broken or lost beans they also go through density sorting and hand sorting so that only the largest beans are used so that the roast is even. This contributes to the added cost as well as the fact that I donate a percentage of my sales back to help rescued elephants at the foundation.

    In short, in the same way that you would not say that all coffee is the same please do not lump Black Ivory Coffee (with only one harvest location) with Kopi Luwak or any other coffee. The type of animal, diet, the brewing process, type of cherry and even the cleaning process all affect taste. I encourage you to try it first and then by all means pass judgement. The fact that Black Ivory Coffee is served in some of the top five star hotels in the world and was featured earlier at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant event is a testimony to the quality.

    Please feel free to learn more at http://www.blackivorycoffee.com

    Best Regards,
    Blake Dinkin, Founder of Black Ivory Coffee

    1. Thanks for weighing in! We’ve had samples. We’re a bit old fashioned about coffee harvesting/processing/roasting, and don’t see the added value of bringing animals into it. Respect to you for trying something new. This is just our view on animal-processed coffee in general.

      1. Thank you for your reply and I hope my previous comment was not interpreted as an attack in any way.

        [La Colombe], ” This is just our view on animal-processed coffee in general.”

        I hope you may reconsider your view as from a scientific, ethical and taste perspective the various animal-processed coffee are not alike. It is akin to stating that one knows what all coffee tastes like globally after only drinking single origin dark roasted Sumatran.

        Thanks for the engagement and your blog is great!

    2. Every time I set out to read about coffee, I learn something new. Wow-ed by the new info. and look forward to trying it in the future.

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