August 18, 2018

That Really Bunches My Panties…by Brendon Marks

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I’m sure you’ve heard about the Kopi Luwak coffee that is made from beans recovered from Civet Cat dung. I have always been curious about the guy who first picked through a dung heap in the jungle, recognized the coffee beans and thought it would be a good idea to make a pot. Firstly I assume it was a guy, because even though I have known some women who buy into weird ideas, like wearing a shirt that buttons up the back, I can’t blame this idea on a woman. Secondly, he must have had a powerful craving for coffee to ever think that passing through the digestive tract of a cat would impart a desirable flavor to the beans.

Perhaps he was just a poor farmer who recognized the coffee bean stuck to the bottom of his shoe and, not being able to afford to buy coffee, thought ‘Why not wash these off and try them on my brother-in-law? Imagine the look on his face when I tell him.’ Thus was born a business that only people rich enough to afford up to $99 for a cup can partake of. Wholesale unroasted beans go for $110 a pound, roasted retail up to $600. They don’t list a price for unwashed beans.

At first, the dung had to be collected in the wild and the beans separated from the remnants of the cat’s natural diet including insects, lizards and small rodents, but now captive Civets are fed a diet of only coffee cherries, producing dung that very much looks like a peanut encrusted Payday candy bar. Still, it takes a lot of Civets to produce a bag of coffee beans, so a Canadian, Blake Dinkin, in Thailand tried a bigger percolator.

His Black Ivory Coffee passes through the much more substantial digestive tract of elephants. Being herbivores, their digestive process uses fermentation to reduce the bitterness and produce a much smoother end product. Feeding the elephants requires mixing the coffee beans with a mash or simply allowing them to suck them up like a Hoover Deluxe (which sounds like a whole lot change being sucked through a vacuum cleaner hose). One drawback however, is feeding them too many beans can lead to caffeine withdrawal and nobody likes a cranky elephant. You also can’t feed an elephant a straight coffee cherry diet, so it’s not easy to find the beans after they’ve been “processed”, that’s why it takes about 36 pounds of beans into an elephant to get one pound out. The entire 2017 production was 330 pounds.

Don’t expect to have Black Ivory Coffee show up in your local supermarket anytime soon. It’s only available in five-star hotels in Asia and the Middle East and from Blackivorycoffee.com. You can get a single 35 gram package (1.2 ounces) for $85. I sent an email to Blake inquiring how many cups of coffee I could expect to make from a single package and he was reluctant to state an exact number claiming “It depends on your water to coffee ratio and your brewing method.” He did say that it was intended to produce five 2-3 ounce espresso size cups.

They also have 15 packages (1.1 pounds) for $1000 or 2.2 pounds for $1800. If you prefer to shop at Amazon, you can get the single package for the same $85. On the other hand two ounces of Wild Kopi Luwak (Civet) coffee goes for only $24.99 on Amazon.

Truly a gift for someone who has everything.

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