August 21, 2013 - I remember back when I had my first cup of coffee. BLACH! I was in college and forgotten a research paper was due the following morning that I had not yet researched.
Caffeine entered my life that day and that night and following the early morning.
(If you need to know, the class was on the history of religion, the paper was on Irish monasticism during the Dark Ages and I pulled an A- on that all-nighter. BAM!)
That coffee then was icky. It was instant stuff from a jar, but it worked. Icky or not, I was hooked. Black coffee has been a part of my morning regimen ever since.
For the better part of 30 years, that coffee was Maxwell House, Folgers -- whatever was on sale at the grocer and whatever was brewed at work (I believe we used to have a brand called Cadillac Coffee). I thought that stuff was pretty good -- until I became a coffee snob a few years ago.
I hate to admit to any snobbery as it goes against my blue-collar upbringing, but when it comes to coffee, these days my nose is pointed haughtily high as a Rockefeller's or Kennedy's.
You can thank Kirk Walker and his ABeanToGo coffee joint for that transformation. Kirk's a master roaster. He imports the uncooked beans and roasts them less than a mile from my home. It's black gold and it is yummy.
Well, this column has nothing to do with any of Kirk's 43 flavors of coffee. It has all to do with an email I received from Orion's Bill Kalmar the other day.
"Don - I know you are always looking for unusual topics for your column. Try this on for size - coffee beans eaten by an animal -- then passed in its excrement -- and then brewed for coffee at a cost of about $90 a pound! You can thank me later! -- Bill"
Well, well, well . . .
Bill sent me a link about Kopi Luwak, or in English, civet coffee. The civet is a possum-like, raccoon like nocturnal critter out of Asia.
Apparently, the civet eats the coffee berry and passes the bean during its regular digestive movement. Somebody then picks up the civet poo, washes, roasts it and then sells it. According to my research, Bill was wrong. Civet coffee is going for up to $600 a pound.
This of course, has led to Asian coffee folks to catching lots of civets, caging them and forcing them to eat lots of coffee berries. Animal rights folks have shown this has led to civet abuse.
After reading about civet poop coffee, I wondered if anybody else is feeding any other animal coffee berries to "ferment" their coffee beans before roasting.
When I wrote about Irish monks in college, research was done in libraries with books, magazines, microfilm and microfiche. It was very time consuming.
Today, when I researched poop coffee, I just typed into my search engine, "animal poop coffee." In less than one second I had about 2 million references to help my quest for information.
There's a "Brew #2" out there and a Black Ivory Coffee that goes for about $50 a cup. It comes from the backside of an elephant. That naturally slow cooked coffee comes out of Thailand.
Not to be outdone, in South America if you want that special cup of Joe, you want one that has been preprocessed by a Jacu bird.
A jacu bird sorta looks like a less pretty peacock. Apparently, "they" say the jacu birds fly to the top of the coffee plant and eat only "the best" coffee berries, thereby leading to only "the best" coffee bean. Which, "they" say leads to the "tastiest" coffee.
I also found there's bat poop coffee.
I think I am in the wrong business.
Speaking of business, I asked Kirk his thoughts on animal poop coffee.
Curiosity got the best of him it seems. He actually admitted he tried some but wasn't overly impressed. "For $500 per pound, I would not pay that nor ever plan to carry it."
(But, I bet if someone really, really, really wanted it, he could get it for you.
All I can say is Kirk is braver than me. I am fine with his regular 43 flavors. Snob or not, I ain't drinking anything that came out the southbound side of any northbound critter.
Comments for the Coffee Snob can be e-mailed to: Don@ShermanPublications.org
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: email@example.com