What do you know? Another case of blogus interruptus. It’s about time to correct that. What better way than to talk about cat crap coffee?
Last weekend I was sitting down and being thoroughly entertained by the products offered on the web site ThinkGeek.com. It holds so many things of wonder and finer geekery that I can get lost looking at things I have no business buying for hours on end.
During my last shopping session I saw the wonderful Laboratory Beaker Mug and that prompted me to do a search on all of their other coffee related offerings. While doing this search I saw that they offered a bag of Civet Coffee. This coffee, also known as Kopi Luwak, is considered to be the finest in the world because of its amazing flavor and lack of bitter aftertaste. The manufacture of it is unique so only a small amount is harvested each year. By the simple rules of supply and demand it is comes with an incredibly high price tag ($160 per lb. US). This is pretty amazing given the fact that it’s crapped out by a weasel like creature called the Asian Palm Civet.
If you haven’t heard of this coffee before than you haven’t watched the Science or Travel channel too much or you didn’t see the movie The Bucket List. Civet Coffee is in fact harvested from the scat of the Asian Palm Civet. It seems that this weasel like “cat” enjoys the coffee berries pulp and in eating those swallows the precious coffee bean held within. The digestive track clears the pulp from the bean, enzymes do their work and the beans pass through the rest of the natural digestive process and are left in the droppings of the civet. By this time I am sure you are having the exact same question I did when reading/hearing about this, “Who the hell was the first person to try this and why?!?” The answer is actually a simple one. Dutch coffee plantation owners wouldn’t let the native farmers harvest the product for their own use. They must have been pretty darn desperate to get themselves a taste of coffee after discovering the beans in the droppings of the civet. They cleaned them, roasted and ground them and discovered the most amazing coffee in the world. Naturally word got around to the plantation owners and they tried it too, having it become their favorite coffee as well.
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because that single bag of coffee on ThinkGeek.com lead me down an Internet rabbit hole where I had to have an answer to who tried this coffee first and why. I’m all for a good cup of coffee but I don’t think I could ever get around where the product came from no matter how it was cleaned, germs killed in roasting, what have you. During my “research” however I made an amazing discovery that made this coffee, in a fashion, accessible to me in a manner that wasn’t cost prohibitive.
It turns out that science once again stepped in to find out the what and why of the amazing flavor of the civet coffee. Some men much smarter than I at the University of Florida studied the beans as only chemists can do and they synthesized a chemical method of producing a simulated civet coffee. By putting the beans through an acidic and enzyme wash the proteins are extracted and the beans modified in the same way as the Civet’s digestive system does without having to ever enter a mouth or pass through an anus. The best part? Because the process is chemical it can be done in much larger quantity so the price is more in line with regular coffee. Turns out a company called Coffee Primero licensed the process from the University and they sell their simulated civet coffee. Naturally I had to buy some to try it. What follows is my experience with this coffee.
Yesterday, while I was at work, the order of Magic Cat Coffee arrived. I wasn’t even home for five minutes before I opened the sealed bag to tag a smell of the beans. It should come as no surprise that they smelled like roasted coffee beans. The aroma wasn’t as pungent as some beans, but I think we’d all agree that to the common nose all roasted arabica coffee beans pretty much smell the same.
This morning I awoke early with the anticipation and excitement of a child on Christmas morning (I know, sad right? We’re just talking about coffee here). Having a 1.5 hour commute (minimum) I can’t really drink coffee first thing in the morning. I was going to have to wait until arriving at work to truly experience the supposed wonder at my fingertips. I did, however, have to grind the beans since I purchased whole beans and there is no grinder at my work.
I have ground plenty of coffee beans in my life time and typically they all smell the same to me. I don’t know if it is because I am caught in the simulated civet coffee spell but I swear on my favorite coffee mug that these beans, when ground, had an amazing aroma that I’ve never experienced before. It was with deep regret and longing that I had to take my freshly ground beans and seal them up in a package to be brewed later at work. Even when taking my MacBook Air out of my backpack to type these very words on BART the enticing aroma wafted out of the bag and into my heart.
After getting to work I have to admit that I took the brewing and consumption of this coffee to a ridiculous extreme. First I made sure to have my morning meal that I usually have at the office (because we all know that coffee tastes even better after you eat). I made sure to let the grounds “brew” in the French Press for at least five minutes. The most absurd thing I did was to eat an orange after my breakfast to cleanse my pallet to prepare for consuming my first cup of what is purported as an extraordinary coffee.
The first item I noted after I pressed and poured was that the aroma smelled like… coffee. It wasn’t a pungent odor however. It smelled good. The coffee was a nice brown, not too dark and not too dense. I let it sit in the cup for a moment to take in the aroma and allow the grounds to settle a little. Then, after taking a deep breath, I took my first sip.
As the coffee passed over my lip and onto my tongue I instantly wondered what I was in for. What is this going to taste like? Is it going to be an amazing experience? Did I just pay $15.99 for a pound of something that is going to taste just like Folger’s or a cup of joe from Denny’s? Why am I thinking so much about something as simple as a cup of coffee?
After getting past this nanosecond of panic I let myself actually taste the coffee. I drank it straight, black with no cream and no sugar. I never take coffee plain but in the interest of science I knew that this flavor had to be taken in pure. So after all of this build up, this hype, this anticipation I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it tasted like… coffee.
The flavor of the coffee was good, smooth and not bitter in any way. I think part of the draw of this coffee, if the Magic Cat coffee tastes anything like it’s overpriced counterpart, is that the coffee truly has no aftertaste. Not only does it not leave a bitter taste in your mouth it also seems to taste even more pleasant as more time passes after drinking it. I have to admit that it honestly is the best cup of coffee that I think I have ever tasted and it will make it hard to go back to any other kind of coffee.
There you have it folks. A ringing endorsement for Magic Cat Coffee from Coffee Primero. If you want to try civet coffee but can’t stomach the price tag than I have to say that this is probably a decent alternative (saying probably because I have not nor will I probably ever drink something that came from an animals ass). I only wish I had been able to drink it in my soon-to-be-delivered Laboratory Beaker Mug because this product of science deserved to be consumed from a container that respected its origins.