SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Years ago, when I first got started in the emergency services, an old medic told me, “Son, if you plan to stay in this business, you’d better learn to love coffee.”
I never did (although I certainly did grow to love caffeine). The following story may be one of the reasons why. I first heard it years ago, but it took me this long to get enough guts to write about it:
Would you like a nice cup of Kopi Luwak?
What coffee drinker wouldn’t? It’s a rare gourmet coffee, very expensive, that comes from the exotic land of Indonesia. You may not have heard of it because it was mostly popular in Japan, where people just went bananas for it.
Back in the late 2000’s, it became one of the most expensive and most sought-after coffees in the world. Just 500 pounds of it is harvested annually, and it has only limited availability in Japan and the US – the western US, I’m guessing.
It’s, um, harvested by monkeys.
Specifically, it’s harvested by the palm civet, a tree dwelling animal that’s described as more of a cat than a monkey. Its scientific name is paradoxurus hermaphrodites.
I’ll let you digest that for a moment.
Oh, and I’ll let the monkey, or whatever it is, digest on that too. Why? Because the animal, also called a Palm Toddy Cat, doesn’t harvest it in the traditional way. Oh, no.
It eats the coffee berries.
Yes, it eats the coffee berries, only picking the perfect ones. The rest of its diet consists of alcoholic tree sap, and I suppose a diet of caffeine and booze says a lot about its behavior. It says nothing, however, about the thinking behind the people who flock to this coffee, which I will refer to as crappuccino.
Made from digested coffee beans.
“It’s the best coffee I’ve ever tasted,” says coffee shop owner Richard Karno. “It smells musty, but it roasts up real nice.”
Other experts also describe a unique “earthy” taste.
This is the very definition of “you can’t make this stuff up”.
The animal ... hm. Okay, let me just jump right into it: The monk-cat, or whatever it is, excretes the beans whole, unscratched, and fortunately for those who harvest it without dung. The Toddy Cats pick the ripest, reddest coffee beans, eat the outer covering, and … process the rest.
Experts say crappuccino was first discovered hundreds of years ago, when explorers sampled it on Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. Those must have been some desperate explorers:
“Captain, I’m so thirsty: Suppose we make coffee from those strange monkey droppings?”
“Sure, why not? I’m getting tired of this lemonade we get from wringing out the ship’s cat.”
They drank a lot of rum back then.
Here’s how food and drink critic Chris Rubin explained it. Read this very carefully:
“Whether it’s because the intestinal juices give some special flavor or because it eats only perfectly ripe berries, the Toddy Cat’s droppings produce what many say is the world’s finest coffee.”
I know I’ve already explained that, but go back and read the quote again. He’s serious. Not a hint of irony.
I keep thinking of when my wife plays World of Warcraft: When she wins special gear for her character, she says it “drops”. Would WoW have gotten so popular if players had to scoop their stuff out of their horse droppings?
I don’t know … is it any more weird than a lot of the other foods we eat? Who first came up with the idea of drinking milk?
“You got this from where?”
“Hey, it works for babies.”
“Yeah, but this came from a cow!”
Or how about eggs?
“Look what just dropped out of that hen.”
“Do you think we can eat it?”
“Okay, did you see where it just came from?”
Or caviar. Or escargot. Rich people love that stuff. It’s fish eggs and snails, people.
The one I’ve never understood is yogurt. Whoever came up with the idea of trying that must have really, really hated wasting food. I mean, most foods get thrown out when they look and smell like yogurt.
But it least it didn’t come from a palm civit toddy cat’s paradoxurus hermaphroditus digestive system.
I suppose, in the end, it’s just a case of rich people being eccentric, just for the fun of it. So what the heck: If you want to pay big bucks for Kopi Luwak (which probably translates to “stupid tourist”), go ahead. I assume you’ll be having it with escargot.