The Ultimate Pick Me-Up
story by Jason Gutierrez from AFP
To the coffee connoisseur, Civet coffee is apparently, the ultimate brew. But who would have thought that the most expensive coffee in the world was made from droppings?
Civet coffee, said to be the most valuable coffee in the world is actually made from beans excreted by the weasel-like animal, the civet.
But despite the price (and the origin) coffee lovers just can’t get enough.
The coffee was discovered by Filipino environmentalist Vie Reyes who has managed to corner a niche market with her expensive beans.
Reyes, and her husband Basil, accidentally stumbled on to civet coffee outside Manila in 2003.
Civets eat the coffee cherry but can only digest the pulp of the fruit. The bean itself, is excreted.
Vie and Basil did extensive research in rural Filipino communities and discovered that civet cat coffee was an old secret among the local folk.
"They were afraid that people wouldn’t buy the coffee if they learned it came from inside the cat. The locals only collected the droppings for their own consumption," Reyes said.
Coffee Alamid, as Reyes has branded her brew, is a natural blend of liberica, exelsa, robusta and Arabica beans that are found in abundance in the Philippines.
Before roasting, the beans have a sour acidic smell that may turn off the less adventurous, but after being dried and then roasted, they give off a sweet chocolaty aroma. When ground and brewed, they produce a coffee that is strong and earthy thanks to the natural fermentation method.
Billed as the "rarest coffee in the world" the commodity is sold by Japan Airlines as a gourmet product on its business class section for 600 dollars for 100 grams and is exported under the Coffee Alamid trademark to China, Taiwan, Australia and the United States.
As a real mark of its gourmet qualifications, it is even sold in one coffee shop in Vienna.
But taking Coffee Alamid to the mainstream was not easy, as it was initially greeted as a novelty item for tourists looking for something unique to take home.
The product was displayed at trade fairs but drew a tepid response while efforts to sell it as an authentic Filipino product failed to generate interest from big coffee shops. It was not until two years ago, when a small article about the product appeared on the front page of a major daily newspaper, that things started to heat up.
Walk-in clients brought friends and word spread. Soon, foreigners started inquiring and offering them exclusive distributorship.
"We mortgaged our house, spent our savings and sold our cars to keep us going," said Basil. "It paid off and we are now devoting our lifetime and two generations of this family to coffee making."