Monday, November 19, 2007

Coffee Monkey Business

In case you didn't know, coffee beans are actually the pit of the coffee cherry -- an otherwise inedible fruit. When people pick coffee, they pick a fairly wide range of coffee cherries, from not quite ripe, to over-ripe. This affects the quality of the coffee eventually brewed from the beans.

Wide Variety of Ripeness

The more perfectly ripe the coffee cherries are when picked, the better and more consistent the coffee flavor. Some human-picked plantations are quite good at picking perfectly ripe cherries, but most are not. There are, however, other ways to pick coffee.

Kopi Luwak coffee beans have passed through the digestive system of the Asian Palm Civet, a raccoon-like mammal from south-east Asia and China.

Originally, the civets would only eat the best, ripest coffee cherries. The pit, or coffee bean, would be affected by the natural enzymes in the civet's digestive tract. The coffee brewed from these beans has a wonderful flavor and total lack of bitterness. Yes, we've tried it. It really is fantastic.

Much debate is made over whether the coffee is superior because of the ripeness of the beans, or because of the enzymatic action involved. In any case, Kopi Luwak coffee is expensive, and many people can't get over the origins -- it's made from poop, after all!

Kopi Luwak in the Wild, so to speak
Similar coffee beans are extracted from the Muntjac, a small deer.
Nowadays, civets are raised on farms and fed coffee cherries in all stages of maturation, so the ripeness factor is miniscule in comparison to the digestive action. The muntjac deer are not raised in farms, so, if you want the 'best', you might look for Kopi Muntjac coffee beans instead. The jurie's out as to whether the farm-raised Kopi Luwak is acceptable as a substitute. Considering it's value, chances are much of it is counterfeit in some way. It's popularity may have destroyed it's very cachet.

This isn't the case with the newest entry in the category of animal harvested coffe, and this animal spits out the pits -- so you don't have the poop factor to worry about.

You know, people get a little crazy about their coffee, don't they. We serve excellent coffee here at Rockhoppers, but we're only slightly obsessive about it. We are careful to treat our shots with respect, not leaving them standing around, and we use the best coffee beans available without animal participation. I think that's enough for us mere humans, don't you?

Animals and coffee on Whidbey Island.

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