Cat Crap Coffee

19 Sep 2013

OK, so you’ve heard of kopi luwak, right? Just in case you haven’t, here’s some Wikipedia for you:

civet-cat-coffee

> Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, refers to the beans of coffee berries once they have been eaten and excreted by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). The name is also used for marketing brewed coffee made from the beans.

Given the process by which this coffee is created, it’s not too surprising that we elect to refer to it in English by a foreign name–kopi luwak–rather than actually giving it a descriptive name. I mean, you can’t just call it “cat crap coffee,” charming as the alliteration may be, right? Well, you can in Chinese.

The Chinese name is 猫屎咖啡, literally, “cat crap coffee.” If you want to be a little cruder, the translation “cat shit coffee” is no less accurate.

What kind of blows my mind is that a coffee shop in the business of trying to sell this product (and it’s kind of expensive coffee) just straight up calls it 猫屎咖啡 (“cat crap coffee”). Don’t strain yourself too much with the marketing effort, right?

You can ask your Chinese friends if they’ve heard of 猫屎咖啡, and probably most of them have. What you won’t hear is them saying things like, “isn’t it weird that we just call it ‘cat shit coffee?'” Well, I have to hand it to the Chinese for calling a spade a spade.

But what I find even crazier is that there’s now a coffee chain expanding to multiple locations in Shanghai that goes by the very name “猫屎咖啡.” So some entrepreneur heard of this coffee, liked it, and decided he wanted the word “shit” in both his main product’s name as well as the name of his very business. Now that’s bold. Sassy, even.

猫屎咖啡

The English name for the Chinese chain is, notably, “Kafelaku Coffee.”

Looks like there’s some backlash forming around this particular strain of coffee in the UK. I can’t imagine it’ll faze the Chinese market, though!

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Erick Garcia Says: September 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Maybe Chinese people will think its a funny name for a type of coffee , like how pork meatballs are “lion heads”.

  2. John, next up is to try the cat shit coffee and do a review. Perhaps the best comparison of a standardized coffee is Starbucks. What’s the preparation, maybe you can show the espresso machines?!

  3. I wonder… googling for 猫屎咖啡 shows a similar place but called (reasonably) Kopiluwak Coffee. I opened a random link and the picture says it’s in Hefei. Unrelated? Shanzhai? I’m curious now…

  4. Interesting, I saw the one around Tianzifang (I think that’s the one in your picture), which has the Kafelaku name, but there’s another place with a very similar aesthetic in the new Global Harbor Mall called “Muskcat Coffee”. The name is exactly the same in Chinese as well. Curious.

  5. I guess the question is if 屎 is considered sufficiently less offensive and inappropriate in Chinese than “s%@#” (or even “crap”) is in English, that it can be used in the name of a business that caters to the public at large….

  6. Jacques Aandy Says: September 25, 2013 at 4:21 am

    John, do you remember the electrolyte drink “Pokari Sweat” in Japan ?

    Kindda along the same line !!

  7. Have you seen the movie “The Bucket List”? it’s all there, from the crapping to the drinking that type of coffee… Cheers, love your site!

    Abel Kay

  8. […] one for the “I can’t believe they named the product that” file (see also “Cat Crap Coffee“). This one has more of a cultural differences angle, with a little bit of translation […]

  9. Hilarious. I went to one of the main “factories” and outlets in Bali and tried some out of curiosity. I thought about doing sort of chemical test to see if it was legit but lost interest and just drank it (“i’d say nice, nutty flavor”). i’ll be back there in 3 weeks if you want me to pick some up … 一包猫屎豆 … can probably double as an emergency flare illumination device

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