Monday, October 17, 2011

Feces, sweet feces

Yes, this title is upsetting -- but only because wonderful things can be quite upsetting.  If I may shed a bit of unsavory light on what pleases you all, then I'm a happy guy.

More to the point, the title refers to Kopi Luwak.  This is a top-shelf brand of coffee, harvested by collecting the feces of the Asian Palm Civet, a frugivorous weasel of Southeast Asia which feeds largely on the berries of the Coffee Tree.  This animal is nocturnal, and thus relies heavily on its sense of smell to find food; thus, the berries it eats are very ripe and flavorful.  As you, my faithful reader, now know from the educational gems on my blog, coffee "beans" aren't beans; they are seeds, which come from the berries which go into the weasel's gullet and out the other end.

Now, if you're anything like me, you find yourself asking, "Why feces?  Isn't weasel shit quite dirty?"  Good questions, both.  Regarding the advantages of this process, the stomach of the Kopi Luwak contains proteolytic enzymes (not gonna link to an explanation, because I know you won't read it -- we're English majors here) which seep into the beans and yield shorter peptides and more free amino acids.  More simply, it deconstructs protein chains, which are largely responsible for coffee's bitterness.  This, coupled with the Civet's impeccable taste in coffee berries, yields a very smooth, unassuming brew.

If you still feel apprehensive about drinking weasel shit, you aren't alone!  To this concern, though, I'd like to start by saying that this coffee is FDA-approved.  This sanction is motivated by the intensive, elegantly simple cleaning process which is used for all coffee, defecated or otherwise.

The first step is washing.  Nothing fancy, just water and patience.  The beans are then roasted.  These high temperatures destroy bacteria (think back to the Governor's "boil water" order that came down when we found out our drinking water just might give us dysentery or giardia).  Once the coffee finds its way to the coffee shop or the kitchen, it becomes a beverage, which process involves percolating with water as hot as 210 degrees.  Even if the coffee hadn't been roasted, this treatment would only eliminate more bacteria, making it that much safer.  By the time the coffee arrives in your cup, your only hygiene concerns should be whether or not your idiot flatmate washed your cup after he used it, or if the barista washed his hands after that long trip to the bathroom.

For the sake of honesty, I should add that I've never had Kopi Luwak before -- it is the most expensive coffee on Earth, and a Rockefeller I am not.  As a coffee devotee, this is my white whale.  If, out of gratitude to me for my lovely articles, some saintly reader decides to buy me a bag of these sacred grounds (hint hint), this blog will have done more for me than I ever dreamed.


  1. It is nice that there is a true connoisseur of coffee in America, we are generally so accepting of mediocrity.

  2. You could be serious here, maybe not. You're right I'm not doing the research to find out. It does remind me of Two Girls One Cup.