SARS Coffee Cats

Could drinking expensive coffee cause SARS? Apparently good coffee and SARS have a common thread … the civet.


“Researchers from the University of Hong Kong examined 25 animals representing eight species in a live animal market in southern China and found the SARS virus in all six masked palm civets they sampled, as well as in a badger and a raccoon dog.

“Klaus Stohr, chief SARS virologist at the World Health Organization, said Friday it was impossible to tell from the study whether any of the animals spread the virus to humans or whether they caught the virus from people.

“The researchers said people could have been infected by the animals as they handled the animals while raising, slaughtering or cooking them. Eating fully cooked meat was probably safe, the researchers said.

“Civet cats are nocturnal animals related to the mongoose, with long tails and catlike bodies. They resemble small raccoons or weasels.”

While not the exact same creature, it is very close in relation to the common palm civet, which is known for making the rarest coffee in the world:

“It all comes down to a marsupial called by several names . luwak, common palm civet and toddy cat or Paradoxurus hermaphroditus . which exists in rainforests from northern India to the Philippines.

“The luwak is considered a pest because it often climbs coffee trees and eats the coffee cherries. The cat is unable to digest them, so the beans pass through the cat’s digestive system unscathed and into its droppings. Coffee plantations on three islands in Indonesia collect the beans from the feces.”