I never drank a coffee in my life and I resisted the temptation to try yesterday when Roland, Helen and Michael sampled some coffee made from mongoose crap. Sound enticing? We spent the day traipsing around northern and eastern Bali seeing sites from the Batur volcano and Bali's mother temple on the slopes of Mt Agung to an aboriginal village, Tenganan, known for intricate books painted on palm leaves, and the ancient kingdoms' hall of justice at Klungkung with wonderful paintings of punishments all over the ceiling. Roland especially liked the one depicting demons sawing into someone's head who had been disrespectful towards his parents. But the highlight of the day was probably the trip to a coffee and spice plantation where one is able to sample some Kopi Luwak.
As a preface just like me say that I'm a huge fan of argan oil from the Essaouria region of Morocco. The oil is pressed from the undigested pits of a fruit that grows on the argan trees which are eaten by tree climbing goats and then pooped out. (See the photo at the link above.) So it isn't poop-processed food per se that turns me off. And the mongoose poop coffee doesn't really even come from a mongoose. The creature is a civet cat. Here's how Wikipedia describes the concoction we're talking about: "Kopi Luwak, also known as caphe cut chon (fox-dung coffee) in Vietnam and kape alamid in the Philippines, is coffee that is prepared using coffee cherries that have been eaten and partially digested by the Asian Palm Civet, then harvested from its feces."
Sound unappetizing? Roland, who used to work at Starbucks and is a coffee addict said it's strong but "bueno."
If you want to add a bit of a fear factor moment to your coffee morning with your friends, ask them to drink some civet droppings with you. It will be quite a test of courage for some of them. Really though, there is nothing to be alarmed at. You are actually serving them coffee, but it is coffee that went through a more exotic process than your regular cup of Joe goes through.
It is called civet coffee. What makes this coffee most unusual is that it literally is the dropping of the palm civet. These furry little creatures love coffee cherries, particularly the reddest ones. They do have excellent taste, don’t they? They swallow them whole. While in their stomach, the cherries are processed by the civet’s stomach acids and ezymes. After a while the beans exit the civet body. The fruit has been removed but the beans are whole.
The resulting bean is has an aroma and flavor distinctly its own. The beans are cleaned and dried before roasting, if that’s on your mind. When roasted it results in oilier beans. The oilier the better is what the experts say. The result is coffee that tastes rather like dark chocolate with a hint of hazelnut.
Civet coffee has more than one source. The best known is Indonesia where it is called Kope Luwak. This exotic coffee sells for about $600 a pound.
Roland claims it's $1,000 a pound and that the British royal family and Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel pretty much buy it all up every year between them. The cup he, Helen and Michael shared cost them $10 in the middle of the jungle and the place where we got was also selling a small jar of the beans for $35 (enough to make 2 cups back home; we all passed on that).
UPDATE: I Forget To Mention...
With all the talk about mongoose shit-- or civet shit-- I should have remembered to mention that we have our first shit meal since we got here. We have two great cooks and normally we eat breakfast and lunch at home, simple, wholesome, delicious food. And for dinners we've been eating in health-conscious vegetarian-oriented restaurants around Ubud. They're friendly, pleasant, organic and incredibly cheap. A dinner is never over $10. So yesterday we decided to pop in on the best hotel in Bali-- and Bali has a couple 4 Seasons, a Ritz Carlton, 3 Amans and a Bulgari-- the AmanKila, in the northeast, far from anything. It was voted the #1 best hotel in Bali and the least expensive room is $750/night. (They go way up from there.) We decided to have lunch there.
They told us that 19 of their 40 rooms and suites are taken When I visited in 2004 there were fewer guests. We were the only people having lunch. The view was beyond stunning-- mountains, ocean, islands, jungle, manicured gardens, triple-decker infinity pool... And that's what you pay for. The bill isn't that outrageous compared to a first rate U.S. restaurant. Our lunch for 5 was just a bit over 2,300,000 rupiah, around $230. But the food was so deadly dull and uninteresting that Anwar, our driver who told me he had never eaten in a place like that before, was thinking that rich people are crazy. (In way of comparison, an average weekly salary in that part of Bali is 800,000 rupiah.) Roland and Helen said some kind of decadent 5-texture flourless chocolate cake they had was a 10 on a scale from 1-10. Everything else lacked flavor or anything that some crotchety old tourist might complain about. This one is "a must avoid."