KOTA KINABALU: There is nothing special about the much-sought-after kopi luwak (coffee produced from civet dung), according to experts and researchers.
Civet coffee, one of the world’s most expensive coffee, is nothing more than a gimmick that exploits the dietary habits of this cat-like animal.
Danau Ginrang Field Centre (DGFC) researcher Meg Evans said having spent quite a number of years observing and studying the civets, she found no proof of the so- called goodness in kopi luwak as claimed by many coffee lovers and marketers.
“Many claim that this type of coffee has a unique flavour due to the animal’s digestive tract which is lower in caffeine and higher in acidity than regular coffee,” she added.
Evans, who is also a PhD student from Kalamazoo, Michigan, said other coffee experts dismissed these claims as nonsense.
“Some coffee lovers are fascinated by the strange journey kopi luwak takes from bush to beverage while others fear the inevitable demand placed on farmers to hunt and imprison civets in appalling conditions,” she said.
“This may be done in order to force-feed them coffee berries and harvest the beans on an industrial scale though those in the trade claim that the raw ingredients were naturally picked from caged civets,” she added.
Evans said she was unsure of the magnitude of the Sabah’s civet coffee industry or the availability of civet farms in Sabah and Sarawak.
Civets are also hunted for their scent glands which are used in producing “musk” perfumes.
Evans said she was working with the DGFC to gather as much information on civets habitat. Her work will be featured in the Borneo Jungle Diaries series on Scubazoo TV.
“Knowing more about how civets live will at least help us fight for their survival,” she said.
Evans said by understanding the civets, researchers were able to understand how people affect the environment and the animals.
“That in itself makes our lessons from civets worth far more than an overpriced cup of coffee,” she added.
Since civets are omnivorous, their diet are made up of numerous Borneo’s flora and fauna, and their expansive habitats are frequently encroached by human settlements.
Evans tracks and monitors the health and behaviours of civets by taking blood samples and physical measurements.
The civets’ fur are also tested for metal and chemical contamination.
Evans and her team use GPS tracker to know where the civets go and use these data to learn how a civet reacts to changes to its habitat.