My sister gave me a small packet of Civet Coffee from the Philippines for Christmas. This is the same stuff that is called *luwak *coffee in Java; the animal in question has a different name in different parts of the world. If you have never heard of it, a Civet Cat is fed the fruit of a coffee tree; coffee beans are harvested from…the other end of the cat, cleaned, and sold to coffee connoissures with more money than sense. According to Wikipedia the stuff sells for up to $600 a pound. My sister got it directly from someone who is trying to start production, by the way, and didn’t pay anything like that.
Dave Barry wrote an absolutely hysterical column about trying this coffee, available here. For the pedants in the audience, by the way, the packet I got called the animal a Civet Cat, Barry refers to it as a kind of weasel, but Wikipedia says it is not a cat or a weasel but an unrelated animal called an asian palm civet.
Anyway, I decided to invite a few friends over to try it. A surprising number of my friends were too busy that day to try coffee made from weasel poop, but several turned up. Normally I am cautious about food and beverages from Third World countries, since you don’t know what sanitary conditions it was packaged under, but it is hard to imagine that they could have done anything accidentally that would be worse than what they did on purpose.
First of all, the beans were less…uniform…than I would expect from, for example, Folger’s Mountain Grown. There were a lot of small and/or discolored beans mixed in. I guess that you have to use all the beans you can find when you are preparing this. It smelled basically like coffee.
I made a pot using a regular drip filter. My wife insisted on putting a lot of grounds into the cone, and so the coffee came out very strong. Even of the people who turned up, a few were unable to get past the origins of the stuff to try it. It was noticeably different than regular ol’ coffee. It had a smoother flavor, almost creamy, and a distinctly sweet aftertaste. Even though, as I mentioned, it wound up very strong, it was not at all bitter. It was definitely better than Starbucks. I don’t know that it was necessarily 37500% better, but that is an individual choice. I was definitely glad to have tried it.