Exotic Coffees

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Words like "exotic" are relative terms, by and large. To someone whose coffee baseline is a glass (or nowadays plastic) jar, a teaspoon, and boiling (or at least very hot) water, grocery store coffee in a sealed metal can will be a luxury. Whole bean coffee, whether blend or pure, over roasted or stale, will qualify as exotic.

Habituees of coffee bars, international travelers, and anyone boasting savoir faire in areas culinary, however, have a vastly different baseline. There will be inferior beans, good beans, fine beans, and superb beans. How these are brewed will make a difference. What constitutes exotic for this audience? Hawaiian coffee is certainly a treat, as are many Caribbean coffees. One easy way to sample exotic coffees is to join a coffee of the month club from a source that specializes in unique blends.

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How about civet coffee? The beans themselves, by all reports, are simply perfectly respectable coffee beans, grown in the Philippines and Indonesia. The exotic part comes from the fact that the beans are eaten by civet cats before they're roasted. They are then expelled (the polite term) without being in any way altered or digested (not to put too fine a point on it). The stomach enzymes add the special touch. In the cup, the brew is reportedly slightly chocolate in taste, quite smooth, and well rounded. The beans sell for about $300 a pound.

Gathering the beans, then, is hard work. Apparently a kilo a day is a good yield. Searching for them means combing river banks and the forests, where civet cats like to roam. So what, while we're on the subject of civet coffee, is a civet cat? The scientific name is Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and it is not actually a cat, simply looks like one. Like cats, the civet likes to climb coffee trees. It also likes coffee cherries, and eats them at their ripest, during the harvest season in that part of the world, which runs from December to March.

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