I have exciting news for anybody who would like to pay a lot of money for coffee that has passed all the way through an animal's digestive tract.
And you just know there are plenty of people who would. Specialty coffees are very popular these days, attracting millions of consumers, every single one of whom is standing in line ahead of me whenever I go to the coffee place at the airport to grab a quick cup on my way to catch a plane. These consumers are always ordering mutant beverages with names like ``mocha-almond-honey-vinaigrette lattespressacino,'' beverages that must be made one at a time via a lengthy and complex process involving approximately one coffee bean, three quarts of dairy products and what appears to be a small nuclear reactor.
Meanwhile, back in the line, there is growing impatience among those of us who just want a plain old cup of coffee so that our brains will start working and we can remember what our full names are and why we are catching an airplane. We want to strike the lattespressacino people with our carry-on baggage and scream ``GET OUT OF OUR WAY, YOU TREND GEEKS, AND LET US HAVE OUR COFFEE.'' But of course we couldn't do anything that active until we've had our coffee.
It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity. I bet this kind of thing does not happen to heroin addicts. I bet that when serious heroin addicts go to purchase their heroin, they do not tolerate waiting in line while some dilettante in front of them orders a hazelnut smack-a-cino with cinnamon sprinkles.
The reason some of us need coffee is that it contains caffeine, which makes us alert. Of course it is very important to remember that caffeine is a drug, and, like any drug, it is a lot of fun.
No. Wait. What I meant to say is: Like any drug, caffeine can have serious side effects if we ingest too much. This fact was first noticed in ancient Egypt when a group of workers, who were supposed to be making a birdbath, began drinking Egyptian coffee, which is very strong, and wound up constructing the pyramids.
I myself developed the coffee habit in my early 20s, when, as a ``cub'' reporter for the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., I had to stay awake while writing phenomenally boring stories about municipal government. I got my coffee from a vending machine that also sold hot chocolate and chicken-noodle soup; all three liquids squirted out of a single tube, and they tasted pretty much the same. But I came to need that coffee, and even today I can do nothing useful before I've had several cups. (I can't do anything useful afterward, either; that's why I'm a columnist.)
But here's my point: This specialty-coffee craze has gone too far. I say this in light of a letter I got recently from alert reader Bo Bishop. He sent me an invitation he received from a local company to a ``private tasting of the highly prized Luwak coffee,'' which ``at $300 a pound . . . is one of the most expensive drinks in the world.'' The invitation states that this coffee is named for the luwak, a ``member of the weasel family'' that lives on the Island of Java and eats coffee berries; as the berries pass through the luwak, a ``natural fermentation'' takes place, and the berry seeds -- the coffee beans -- come out of the luwak intact. The beans are then gathered, washed, roasted and sold to coffee connoisseurs.
The invitation states: ``We wish to pass along this once in a lifetime opportunity to taste such a rarity.''
Or, as Bo Bishop put it: ``They're selling processed weasel doodoo for $300 a pound.''
I first thought this was a clever hoax designed to ridicule the coffee craze. Tragically, it is not. There really is a Luwak coffee. I know because I bought some from a specialty-coffee company in Atlanta. I paid $37.50 for two ounces of beans. I was expecting the beans to look exotic, considering where they'd been, but they looked like regular coffee beans. In fact, for a moment I was afraid that they were just regular beans, and that I was being ripped off.
Then I thought: What kind of world is this when you worry that people might be ripping you off by selling you coffee that was NOT pooped out by a weasel?
So anyway, I ground the beans up and brewed the coffee and drank some. You know how sometimes, when you're really skeptical about something, but then you finally try it, you discover that it's really good, way better than you would have thought possible? This is not the case with Luwak coffee. Luwak coffee, in my opinion, tastes like somebody washed a dead cat in it.
But I predict it's going to be popular anyway, because it's expensive. One of these days, the people in front of me at the airport coffee place are going to be ordering decaf poopacino. I'm thinking of switching to heroin.
Some coffee varieties have earned a special reputation, often based on a combination of rarity, unusual circumstances and particularly good flavor. These coffees, from Jamaican Blue Mountain to Kona to Tanzanian Peaberry, command a premium price.
KopiLuwak: An Indonesian Island Treasure
Excerpts taken from a special article in Cafe Olť Magazine
But the rarity, unique flavors and interesting background of Kopi Luwak are unlikely to be matched by an other. Its price is unmatched as well: Kopi Luwak wholesales for about $110 per pound, unroasted.
Kopi is the Indonesian word for coffee. Kopi Luwak comes from the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi (formerly Celebes), which are part of the Indonesian Archipelago's 13,677 islands. (Only 6,000 of these islands are inhabited.) But it's not strictly the exotic location that makes these beans worth their weight in silver. It's how they're "processed." On these Indonesian islands, there's a small marsupial called the paradoxurus, a tree-dwelling animal that is a kind of civet (more like a weasel, I'd say- Doc W.) These catlike animals were long regarded as pests because they would climb in the coffee trees and eat only the ripest, reddest coffee cherries.
What these animals eat, they also digest and eventually excrete. Some brazen or desperate locals gathered the beans, which come through the digestion process fairly intact, still wrapped in layers of the coffee cherry mucilage (Ugh. -Doc W.) Apparently the enzymes in the stomach of the animal add something unique to the coffee's flavor through fermentation.
This "harvesting" practice has grown to the point that the beans are now available for sale, and they are now the world's priciest specialty coffee. Japan buys the bulk of Kopi Luwak, but M.P. Mountanos Inc., the first importer in the United States to bring in this rare bean, just imported 70 kilos after a seven-year search for a reliable and stable supplier.
``It's the rarest beverage in the world", according to M.P. Mountanos President Mark Mountanos. Richard Karno, owner of The Novel Cafť in Santa Monica, California, got a flyer from Mountanos' about Kopi Luwak and "thought it was a joke." But Richard was intrigued, found it was for real, and ordered a pound for a tasting. He sent out releases to the local press and invited them to a cupping. When no one responded, he roasted it and held a cupping for himself and his employees.
Richard is a very enthusiastic convert to Kopi Luwak. "It's the best coffee I've ever tasted. It's really good, heavy with a caramel taste, heavy body. It smells musty and junglelike green, but it roasts up real nice. The Los Angeles Times didn't come to our cupping, but they ran a bit in their food section, which hit the AP wire service."
Richard and the folks at M.P. Mountanos have been inundated with calls ever since. Mark Mountanos calls Kopi Luwak "the most complex coffee I've ever tasted," attributing this complexity to the natural fermentation it undergoes in the paradoxurus' digestive system. The stomach acids and enzymes the beans ferment in have a very different affect than fermenting beans in water. Mark says, "It has a little of everything pleasurable in all coffees: earthy, musty tone, the heaviest bodied I've ever tasted. It's almost syrupy, and the aroma is very unique." While it won't be turning up in every neighborhood cafť any day soon, Mark reports that Starbucks bought some for cuppings within the company. In fact, most of Mountanos' customers have bought it for special cuppings.
Intrigued by the hype, I drove out to the Los Angeles warehouse of M.P. Mountanos to cup some Kopi. The green beans, which range in size from tiny to elephant, have a faint smell that hints of a zoo or stables. He lightly roasted about 21 grams, enough for three cups, in a Jabez Burns two-barrel sample roaster, a rare and beautiful machine dating from the 1930s.
Andrew gave the beans a light roast just after the second popping to accentuate the specific flavors of this rare coffee; a darker roast would obliterate the subtler flavors. This coffee, like most Indonesians, has lots of moisture and roasts nicely. Andrew mixed 7 grams of the coarsely ground beans with 4 ounces of water in each of three cups.
The aroma was rich and strong, and the coffee was incredibly full bodied. It was thick, with a hint of chocolate, and lingered on the tongue with a long, clean aftertaste.
It was definitely one of the best cups I've every had; but at these prices, I'll invest in precious metals before I start buying by the pound.
This is why New Agers deserve to die. They are too stupid and vacuous to be suffered to live. The Earthquake that finally berefts us of the Californians and Coloradans will be a blessing from God. HallelujahGobble.