03 April 2012

Civet Coffee, a Pre-Digested Delight

For this year's A-Z challenge, I'm posting juicy tidbits of researchy goodness for your interest and edification. I intend to use these as story prompts for the terrifying writing challenge Story a Day in May. You may use them however you wish.

I love a cup of coffee - one might say I am a devotee or even a coffee snob. I love the ritual of grinding beans, the scent of coffee, and, as a writer who delights in burning the midnight oil, I rely on a good solid daily caffeine kick to focus my mind.

There is one type of coffee I've never tried: the infamous kopi luwak. I understand this was on Oprah a while back? You might have heard of it.

Kopi luwak is coffee that has passed through the intestinal tract of this little guy, the luwak, or palm civet, who has a wonderful latin name: paradoxurus hermaphroditus. Isn't he cute?

The luwak eats the red fruit of the coffee tree ("coffee cherries"). It digests the outer fruit part, and poops out the seeds / beans, which have fermented due to their exposure to the luwak's digestive enzymes. Fermentation is one type of normal coffee processing in order to separate the fruit from the desirable bean, but usually this is done in water.

Richard Karno of The Novel Café in Santa Monica describes kopi luwak as "the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. It’s really good, heavy with a caramel taste, heavy body. It smells musty and junglelike green, but it roasts up real nice."

On a sad note, while kopi luwak is typically foraged in its naturally occurring Sumatran environment, the nutso craze for it has created a factory farming scenario for palm civets, which is just about the grossest and most excessive manifestation of supply-and-demand sickness I've encountered. There is apparently a cruelty-free option based on synthetic enzymes that mimic the luwak's digestive traits. (If you decide you just try this coffee, please buy it responsibly.)

On a more story-promptish note, this whole deal has me thinking about rare culinary delights; about foods that depend on a rare creature for their processing; about geese who lay golden eggs; about fountains of youth. Could be a good story in here.


Simon Kewin said...

I'm a devoted coffee lover but have never tried this. Now I don't know if I should!

Thanks for dropping by mine. Hope you didn't have "blunderbuss" in your head too much!

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Hey hey. My, but you have a delightful way with words. I'd heard of this rare coffee before but not that they were harvesting these critters in a cruel way. Very sad.

I would love to read whatever story comes out of this. Really I would.

Now... I've always had the feeling that I may have really special enzymes myself. Should I go eat some coffee beans and percolate my poop? I await your advice.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Do it. I'll expect a full report of your results on my desk by the end of the week.

Elizabeth Twist said...

I'm on the fence myself, Simon. Apparently there are a lot of knock-offs / fakes on the market, to further complicate matters.

Melissa Sugar said...

I love your blog and your theme for A to Z story prompts. It has to be up there in my top ten so far. I am probably one of (if not the) only writer or person who does not drink coffee. I occasionally drink a super sweet hazelnut iced coffee, but I just never acquired a taste for coffee. I am weird, I know. My husband loves to drink rare and special blend coffees and I am excited about sharing this with him.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Thanks, Melissa! Let me know if your husband does try kopi luwak. I'd like to know what people think about it.

Cherie Reich said...

I just finished reading a book that mentioned the kopi luwak. :)

Jocelyn Rish said...

I'd heard of this coffee before, but I've never tried it. After hearing about the factory farms, I'm definitely steering clear. Poor little guys just want to poop in peace.

Best of luck with the challenge,

Bushman said...

I tried the generic version of this. Fed my dog a bunch of ....never mind you don't wanna hear this.
I too love coffee. Sometimes so strong my sweat smells like coffee. MMMMMMMMM

Jennifer Lane said...

Um. I think I'll pass on this poop coffee? ;D I prefer what my gay friend Chuck calls "gay coffee"--coffee with lots o' cream and flavoring!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

That sounds disgusting. I'll stick with Folgers thank you.

nutschell said...

I've heard about this. Hmm. Good thing I'm not a coffee drinker :)

Traci Kenworth said...

Yuck on the coffee!!

Sarah Tokeley said...

How sad that yet again someone thinks more of money than living creatures.

Kirsty said...

Popping over as part of the challenge. I think I'll pass on this coffee thanks. I do like coffee but the smell first thing in the morning makes me ill - I think this might push that button further however cute he may be. Looking forward to seeing what stories come from this in May.