While I once pooh-poohed the notion of poo-poo coffee (and any other delicacies that passed through the digestive system of a civet or a beaver) in “Say, Did That Strawberry Flavor Come From Beaver Butt?” it seems that back then, I didn’t know my head from my ass.
A well-connected friend hooked me up with some of the $300-a-pound brew over the weekend, and I have to say, it was pretty fine. As advertised, the coffee felt velvety in my mouth, with delicate flavors and no aftertaste or acid bite. Having “bean” around the world a few times, my husband and I like to think of ourselves as adept coffee judges. I would score this Doi Chaang blend from Thailand as one of the smoothest I’ve ever tasted (and apparently, this was not even the finest of their fine blends).
In case you’re not familiar with the process for making civet coffee, here’s the rundown:
- Furry little Southeast Asian civets run around eating coffee cherries
- The beans from the cherries ferment in their stomach acids and enzymes
- The civets poop
- Diligent workers run around and pick up the poop
- The poop is washed, and voilà! The prized coffee bean is left behind.
As with any emerging industry, regulation and quality control is an issue. In a New York Times story, it was reported that one farmer went as far as to glue regular coffee beans to some “unidentified dung” before trying to sell them for top dollar. (His mistake was not choosing water-soluble glue.)
Yet others have started to keep caged civets, feeding them coffee beans in order to mass-produce the premium blend. This makes me, and the civets, sad. Civet coffee buyers are therefore cautioned to purchase only brands and blends which specify they came from wild civets, like the Doi Chaang brand I mentioned above. (Talk about good marketing, here’s the page on Doi Chaang’s website that includes endorsements from Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki and gorilla researcher Jane Goodall.)
As fantastic as it tasted, I won’t be enjoying civet coffee again anytime soon — the baht-to-dollar currency conversion of the price on this tin comes out to $33 for 50 grams, and it’s even more expensive if sourced online. This whole experience has planted the entrepreneurial seed bean, however.
What can I feed my cat that will result in a high-yield, exorbitantly-priced commodity that doesn’t smell funny and tastes good? And more importantly, where do I find a willing group of product testers? I don’t have the answer yet, but she looks worried even as I write this, and I’m sure will be watching me closely the next time I scoop the piles from her litter box.
What strange food or drinks have you tried, and was it under duress?