Controversy surrounds world's most expensive coffee

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Controversy Surrounds World's Most Expensive Coffee

Controversy and cruelty surround the world's most expensive cup of coffee according to a recent ABC News report.

Kopi Luwak is a pricey Indonesian export harvested from the droppings of the tree-dwelling civet cat. But many, if not most, civet cats are kept in tiny battery cages causing them to exhibit erratic and nervous behavior—including biting and scratching themselves.

Traditionally, civet cats prowl coffee plantations and help themselves to ripe coffee cherries late at night. In turn, coffee beans exit the cats' digestive tracts whole—with a distinctive flavor and smell that has coffee connoisseurs shelling out as much as $90 per cup and $600 per pound.

With high demand and prices spawning such an ethically questionable industry, many who originally sang Kopi Luwak's praise are changing their tune.

Tony Wild, the coffee journalist who originally put Kopi Luwak on the Western radar in 1991, became so repulsed with the industry that he started a widespread advocacy campaign to reduce demand. After initial success, Wild has shifted focus to support the cultivation and certification of genuinely wild Kopi Luwak—without the cruelty and cages.

Regardless of its source, some still aren't sold. While fans of the strange brew claim it's more smooth than an average cup of coffee, many consider it an over-hyped gimmick that, in the words of Lily Kubota of the Specialty Coffee Association of America: "just tastes bad".

See photos of the controversial practice:
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Controversy surrounds world's most expensive coffee
TAMPAKSIRING, BALI - MAY 28: A civet cat looks out from a cage inside a 'Kopi Luwak' or Civet coffee farm and cafe on May 28, 2013 in Tampaksiring, Bali, Indonesia. World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) commissioned research showing the true cost of the world's most expensive coffee, thousands of civets are being poached from the wild, kept in inhumane, conditions, and farmed to meet the growing global demand for civet coffee. The BBC are broadcasting a documentary on the Civets as part of their 'Our World' series this evening at 2300. (Photo by Nicky Loh/Getty Images for World Animal Protection)
TAMPAKSIRING, BALI - MAY 28: A civet cat looks out from a cage inside a 'Kopi Luwak' or Civet coffee farm and cafe on May 28, 2013 in Tampaksiring, Bali, Indonesia. World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) commissioned research showing the true cost of the world's most expensive coffee, thousands of civets are being poached from the wild, kept in inhumane, conditions, and farmed to meet the growing global demand for civet coffee. The BBC are broadcasting a documentary on the Civets as part of their 'Our World' series this evening at 2300. (Photo by Nicky Loh/Getty Images for World Animal Protection)
PUPUAN, BALI, INDONESIA -JANUARY 20: Wayan Dira checks on Luwak beans that have just been roasted January 20, 2011 in Pupuan village, Bali, Indonesia. Sari Artini and her husband Wayan Dira have had a small coffee business for the last two years in the coffee region of western Bali. They own nine Luwaks and are now producing the expensive coffee hoping to cash in on the desire for the rare beans. The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)
TAPAKSIRING, BALI, INDONESIA -JANUARY 20: A Luwak is kept in a cage so that tourists can view the animal at the Abian Sari coffee plantation January 20, 2011 in Tapaksiring village, Bali, Indonesia. . The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)
TAPAKSIRING, BALI, INDONESIA -JANUARY 20: Luwak coffee beans for sale at the BAS Coffee plantation January 20, 2011 in Tapaksiring, Bali, Indonesia. The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)
PUPUAN, BALI, INDONESIA -JANUARY 20: Wayan Dira collects the Luwak stool under their cage January 20, 2011 in Pupuan village, Bali, Indonesia. The stool is collected once a day for processing. Sari Artini and her husband Wayan Dira have had a small coffee business for the last two years in the coffee region of western Bali. They own nine Luwaks and are now producing the expensive coffee hoping to cash in on the desire for the rare beans. The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)
A forest guard, only hands seen, warms a baby civet cat near a fireplace after rescuing it from floodwaters in Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) east of Gauhati, India, Friday, July 27 2007. Animals of Pobitora wildlife sanctuary are struggling to reach highland to survive flooding caused by monsoon rains. The sanctuary is famous for the 84 one-horned rhino living in 16 square kilometers. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Filipino farmer Eleuterio Balidio displays Civet cat droppings of mostly coffee beans which he retrieved from a coffee farm in Indang, Cavite province, south of Manila in this Oct. 27, 2004. Its origins might put off some coffee drinkers, but an exotic bean that draws top dollar from connoisseurs is plucked from animal droppings. Not just any animal. The coffee comes from beans eaten but undigested by the palm civet, a nocturnal, fruit-eating cousin of the mongoose that roams tropical forests. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A Civet cat climbs a coffee tree to eat ripe cherries at a farm in Indang, Cavite province south of Manila in this Oct. 27, 2004 photo. Its origins might put off some coffee drinkers, but an exotic bean that draws top dollar from connoisseurs is plucked from animal droppings. Not just any animal. The coffee comes from beans eaten but undigested by the palm civet, a nocturnal, fruit-eating cousin of the mongoose that roams tropical forests. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
BALI, INDONESIA -JANUARY 16: A Luwak snacks on coffee berries inside its cage January 16, 2011 in Bali, Indonesia. The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)
VIETNAM - DECEMBER 13: Coffee beans excreted by civet cats are dried in a homemade lightbox on a farm in the main coffee-growing area of Dak Lak province in central Vietnam, on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008. Civet cats eat ripe coffee cherries. The bitter coating on the beans is removed in the course of digestion, producing a unique-tasting and naturally processed coffee bean. (Photo by Claire Leow/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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