Somewhat to my amazement, I have come to an unexpected agreement with Harrods to work alongside them to seek to create a viable independent certification scheme for genuine wild kopi luwak. If we succeed, this will have the effect of exposing those producers or traders selling kopi luwak that they falsely claim or imply is 'wild' or 'natural'. Consumers will know once or for all that, if these companies are really doing as they say, they should be able to show they have the certificate.
I've long argued that the creation of an independent certification scheme is the only way to counter the cruelty and corruption involved in the kopi luwak trade. But the practical difficulties of doing so made the idea seemed like a pipedream. Now that Harrods have committed to this, with all their commercial clout and resources, it seems it could be a viable proposition. WSPA will be providing the wildlife expertise vital for the creation of the scheme.
In a highly unusual move, Harrods have introduced me (me, of all people!) to Matthew Ross, the producer of the ethical 'Sijahtra' kopi luwak that they have been selling for a few months. I met him a couple of days ago and was impressed - and fascinated. He said that his aim has been precisely to create a niche coffee that is the genuine wild article, and then proceeded to demonstrate with photos and other supporting evidence exactly how he has gone about it.
Previously I've gone on record as saying that consumers should boycott all kopi luwak until a certification scheme is in place. In this case, I've decided to waive that demand for the time being, accepting that the good faith shown to me by Harrods in putting me in touch with their ethical supplier deserves this much respect, as does their commitment to the creation of a certification scheme. The fact that Sijahtra wild kopi luwak is produced with astonishing levels of scrupulousness and attention to detail also greatly influenced this decision.
I'll be continuing to expose fraudulent, deceptive or cruel practices in my Facebook "Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap!" campaign, but follow me on Twitter (@TonyVWild) if you want to keep up with the latest twists and turns in this saga!
In the meantime I see this as a totally unexpected opportunity to execute a pincer movement on the kopi luwak industry: on the one hand, to continue to cast doubt on the claims of producers, traders and retailers who, on the basis of the meaningless 'trusted supplier' trope, continue to assure their clients that all is well - and on the other hand to create an independent certification scheme which will leave those making fraudulent, disingenuous or unproven claims exposed.
And hats off to Katharine Witty, Group Director of Corporate Affairs at Harrods: she's grasped the nettle and has come up with an imaginative but hopefully practical solution to a problem that has plagued the coffee industry for years - and, as you may know, Harrods itself for the last few torrid weeks. It remains to be seen, of course, how exactly this all pans out. Watch this space! I'm sure there will be more surprises along the way...