Monday, October 13, 2014

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Civet Crap Coffee Beer

     Two nights ago, my friends and I sat around and drank some poop.
     Ha.  While that’s sort of technically true, it’s a wild exaggeration.  We had beer that had some of that coffee made with beans that a civet cat had consumed, digested, and defecated, in it.  So this blog hasn’t taken a dark turn, and become a platform for discussing bizarre and repulsive fetishes.  (Yet.)  (Ha again.)
     The beer was Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel.  It’s an American Double/Imperial Stout.  Mikkeller is rather an odd setup.  It’s essentially some brewers without a brewery.  They only have a small brewpub in Denmark, but their real production is done using their recipes, but brewed in conjunction with other breweries.  Some of these partners are Nogne O, Evil Twin, BrewDog, Three Floyds, Cigar City, and AleSmith.  Brewing with literal crap coffee isn’t that weird for them—they’re big experimenters, having put out an amazing 600 different types of beer.
     Asian palm civets are small mammals, having bodies about 2 feet long, and having an additional foot and a half long tail.  They weigh between 4-11 pounds and are native to Southeast Asia.  “Cat” is not an accurate name for them—they’re not felines, and are most closely related to mongooses.  These creatures are nocturnal, and have an omnivorous diet—mostly fruit and insects.  One of the types of fruit they like is coffee berries—“bean” is actually not botanically correct.  The coffee berries are not completely digested, and folks clean the feces off of them, grind them up, and brew up coffee.  You might ask, what kind of fool would drink coffee made from cat crap?  Rich ones!  Depending on the kind, a kilo of this coffee can set you back as much as $3000!  The merits of Kopi Luwak, as it’s known in Indonesia, are sharply debated.  Obviously, given its price, many think the taste is improved by the civet’s digestive system.  Others, including some renowned coffee snobs, maintain that the civet coffee is mediocre at best, and that people are just interested because it’s rare, exotic, and pricey.  Snob appeal.  And that the fans of it convince themselves that its’ great for psychological reasons.
     When I first heard about it, I had many questions.  Who came up with the idea, and when?  Also, does this mean people were just trying partially digested food from other animals’ crap, too?  Or did they feed coffee berries to various animals, and brew up the resulting poop coffee, many times, and that civet’s just happened to be the best?  Well, the truth is kind of depressing.  The Dutch prohibited the local people of Sumatra and Java from using coffee for their own consumption in the 18th century.  Then the native people noticed the coffee bean remnants in wild civet dung, and began to brew it up.  It became traditional, and even after they were independent they kept doing so.
     There is one more topic to discuss.  Civet coffee is controversial for another reason.  Namely, since it’s become such a lucrative export, folks are clearly inclined to increase production.  This is sometimes done by caging the civets, and even force feeding them.  So it’s rather similar to the whole foie gras situation.  Happily, Mikkeller maintains that their coffee is only gathered from wild, uncaged civets, eating of their own accord, in Vietnam.  This variant is called ca phe chon.
     I was very excited to try this beer, with its special excretatory ingredient.  I did so at the World of Beer bar/restaurant in Albany, NY.  And it was….. pretty terrible.  I didn’t like it one bit.  But, there’s an important caveat—I detest coffee.  One of the great mysteries to me is why most of the world loves it.  I get that the caffeine is a nice boost for people in the morning, but there are other, (to me) tastier sources for this.  I invited (really insisted, in a case or two) the others in my group to try some, and most of them liked it.  Finally, in addition to not liking coffee, I’m not a fan of stouts.  So a flavoring agent that I despise in a type of beer I dislike—there was almost no chance I was going to enjoy this.  In conclusion, I’ll never have this again, but if you like stouts, and coffee, it might be up your alley.  And if you save up a bunch of money, you might like the actual civet coffee by itself, too.
     If anyone was put off by the scatological nature of this post, I apologize.  It (presumably) will not be repeated.

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