Sampling a Cat’s Bum

Jun 10, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Coffee, Consume, Discover

With some trepidation, I opened the sealed bag.   As an appreciator, excited to see and feel the oils on the beans, but  very aware of where they had already traveled through. Nervously, I put my nose to the bag, and inhaled deeply, expecting some pungent odor (as Austin Powers once said: “mmmm nutty!”). Thankfully, the aroma was definitely one of coffee, not, as Beavis would say, “bunghole”.  But I assault your good taste too soon, allow me to explain….

Drinking or eating is as much an adventure as physical activity or exploration.  There have been various culinary adventures on my list for some time: eating fugu (the Japanese blowfish sashimi that can kill if not prepared correctly), peeling a durian (the “king of fruits” that is found in Asia and emits an overpoweringly offensive smell in contrast to its sweet taste), and drinking kopi luwak coffee.

Kopi Luwak is one of the world’s most expensive and low-production coffees, probably because the process is so unusual your average coffee drinker wouldn’t be interested in it.  It is made by collecting coffee cherries which have been eaten by a civet, a native cat of Indonesia, digested and then “passed”.  The digestive process causes a chemical reaction which allegedly enhances the flavor of the beans.  Don’t worry, the beans are washed, dried in the sun and roasted before being packaged.

Back to the coffee bean sniffing.  A strong coffee aroma, with notes of chocolate, mild berries, and perhaps tobacco.  One of the things I like about coffee is that it can be a sensory and geographical exploration as much as wine can, and being a coffee wanker is as much fun as being a wine wanker (note: this is the more endearing definition of wanker, rather than literal – see urbandictionary.com).  Back to the beans…they were probably more darkly roasted than I generally go for, preferring the traditional northern Italian medium roast, but no evidence of excrement visible.

Once ground, there was a scent I hadn’t experienced in coffee before.  Dark and imminently earthy.  My girlfriend was less enthusiastic, and more blunt.  “Smells like shit to me”, she said.  Undeterred, I made an espresso.  The pull did not result in a lot of crema (and no, I’m not referring to being a wanker again!), but to me this indicates a lack of freshness since roast, rather than a bad bean.  Once pulled, the smell evoked more drip coffee than fine espresso, with smoky notes.  It tasted strong, with hints of chocolate.

I love coffee, but can’t claim to be a purist.  I love my lattes, and so for me that’s the ultimate test.  Once made into a latte the kopi luwak was definitely drinkable, and had some very unique scent and taste aspects.  But was it magical, and live up to its reputation, and the $24 price tag for just 50g?  Well, no.  BUT, this was a brand of kopi luwak available at an Indonesian airport and supermarket.  I have no idea how long ago the civets ate and ultimately excreted these beans.  I don’t know how long they sat on Indonesian soil before being collected by hand.  Its a mystery when the beans were roasted, packed and shipped. The freshness is unknown (lack of roasting date on any coffee always should raise suspicions!).

So was this a worthwhile culinary journey?  Any unknown experience is always worth a try, but it wasn’t mind-blowing like I’d expected.  Given the other beans I’m able to easily access on a fresh basis, likely this turned out to be a once-only $24 cup of cat’s bum joe.  I’m not giving up though, next time I try Kopi Luwak coffee it will be much closer to the source – maybe not too close to the cat’s production line, but back where the beans land in Indonesia.

For more on kopi luwak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak

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