The world's most expensive coffee has already been digested long before it ever touches the drinkers' lips. Kopi luwak comes from Indonesia, and it's unique flavor and high price ($179 for a 16oz bag) come from the fact that the beans have been picked from the feces of a cat-like animal called the civet, which eats fresh coffee cherries and passes the beans undigested.
As demand for the coffee increases, scientists have found, so has the demand for the civets that "produce" it.
"Now, this burgeoning kopi luwak industry is creating 'civet farms'," reports mongabay.com. "Whereby civets are stolen from the wild and kept in cages to eat and expel coffee beans."
A new paper from the animal trade watchdog group TRAFFIC suggests that the unregulated farming, with the animals are kept in cramped cages and underfed, could harm civet populations. In other words, animals may die and ecological havoc may be wrought so that rich weirdoes can drink coffee that was, at one time, inside something's shit. As TRAFFIC regional director Chris Shepherd told Mongabay,
"To me, this is the most ridiculous threat to civets, or to any wildlife, I have seen yet. Do people drinking this coffee know what a civet is? Do they know that animals are being taken from the wild for their cup of coffee? And do they know that the beans ground to make their coffee have been eaten and crapped out by a smelly, furry little animal?" [Small Carnivore Conservation, via Mongabay]