This, apparently, is the story of how the raccoon of the east’s coffee bean-studded excrement became valuable to humans.
Back in the 19th century, the Dutch colonized much of Indonesia and like many controlling, misery-making empire-builders, they refused to let the people who were made to work in their interests enjoy the fruits of their own labor. The Indonesians were barred from picking coffee beans for personal use.
My boyfriend, who incidentally is also Dutch -- though a far more benevolent form of Dutch -- is always telling people how fearsome I am before I’ve had my coffee in the morning. It’s true. I need it. I need a gigantic cup of it. And no one can talk to me, or more accurately, no one can expect me to engage in conversation, before I’ve finished it.
If I don't have my morning coffee, my mood quickly becomes grumpy and silent. This isn’t something I’m proud of but it isn’t a particularly quirky flaw either. Take away people’s coffee and they will resort to drastic measures.
Case in point: Kopi Luwak. If the Dutch hadn’t been such jerks, the world would never know how coffee beans tasted after they’ve passed through a digestive tract.
In the same way the tinsel from my childhood Christmas tree came out of my tabby’s ass completely intact, so too does the coffee bean out of a civet -- a weasel/cat hybrid who seemingly doesn’t know after all this time what is of nutritional value and what is just roughage.
These beans are what was roasted and brewed to stave off grumpiness in colonial Java and Bali.
This brew may have been born out of necessity but Kopi Luwak is now the most expensive coffee in the world. Apparently once you taste it, you don’t want to go back to normal, undigested coffee. I decided to give it a try.
First, I went by minibus to a coffee and spice plantation where I was shown coffee in the raw, dangling above me in vivid holly berry red clumps. We passed by a large enclosure where a small mammal curled up in the corner. It was a pitiful sight to see. Apart from the inherent sadness in seeing something caged, I couldn’t help but feel a bit embarrassed for this cute little creature kept in captivity to be a pooping machine for its lungi-wearing overlords.
I walked around it to a small tin-roofed structure under which several men sat sorting and roasting the coffee beans. After purchasing a powdered version myself back in Ubud I gave it a try:
OK, not bad. I don’t know if I could get used to the smell though. Or the idea really. Has anyone had anything grosser to drink?