Good To The Last Dropping

Sometimes you can get quality in exchange for money and sometimes you can get rare items for money.  Sometimes you get neither.

There is a coffee called Kopi Luwak from Indonesia.  Originally the Dutch plantation owners had a rule that the plantation workers were forbidden from using any coffee beans that they gathered.  The observant workers noticed that the poop of a local cat (the Civet) contained the beans after the fruit was eaten.  By carefully collecting and cleaning the beans they were able to get enough coffee beans to use.

Then the Plantation owners saw this and they demanded to get those beans too.  It became their favorite drink.  I can’t help but think the plantation workers had a bit of a laugh thinking about the owners ignoring the fresh beans in order to use the poop covered ones.  Wikipedia has a quote from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)  that there is a “general consensus within the industry … it just tastes bad”.

The Kopi Luwak was expensive since the beans “processed” from the wild cats were pretty tough to come by.  But since the coffee was expensive, there was a great effort to improve the sourcing of the beans.  And it has come to this:


Now the beans aren’t especially scarce.  They are collected from caged wild animals fed an unbalanced diet in order to increase the “yield” of the beans.  The beans are easy to find in the litterbox.   But the price is still high  at $100 to $600 per pound.

Are there winners and losers in this transaction?  I suppose the farmers are winners since they can make huge profits on coffee.  And I suppose that the consumers are losers since they are paying a high price for a substandard bean that isn’t scarce anymore.  But the real losers are the Civets that are having to spend their lives caged and mistreated because people want to make make more money faster.

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