Kaapi or Kopi? You decide!

Kaapi or Kopi? You decide!

COFFEE MANIA The civet cat’s digestive juices and enzymes react with the outer layer of the raw coffee bean. This is believed to give the coffee bean its unique flavour.

Coffee or kaapi, as it is widely known in South India, is perhaps the most widely-researched beverage in the scientific and medical field.  At some time or other every disease known to man has been said to be a result of coffee drinking. Coffee or its active ingredient caffeine is, therefore, much maligned.

For all the bad rep it gets, coffee also has its cheerleaders. These faithful followers have been able to connect coffee (and even caffeine,) with several beneficial traits including prevention of some major diseases — yes, those very diseases that coffee was supposed to cause!

Coffee’s popularity continues to grow in many parts of our country where coffee drinking was practically unheard of and the ubiquitous tea or chai was the drink of choice.

In particular, coffee is gaining popularity among youngsters, who are absorbing the coffee-cafe-culture and turning cafes into their favourite hang out spot. This also allows cafe owners to charge exorbitant prices for their food and drink.

Did I say “exorbitant?” Well, I have a hunch you are not going to see one really exorbitant and exotic coffee featured on any of these cafe’s menus. Why? Well you may not be averse to eating frog’s legs, butterfly wings, or even snails if they are served with panache and have a foreign name but I dare you to try Doi Chaang Civet Coffee. This coffee retails at roughly $1100 a kilo!

The rarity of this coffee is not the only factor contributing to its idiosyncrasy. Nor is the fact that it is the world’s most expensive coffee. This Kopi Luwak (civet coffee) is actually better known by its more descriptive name of ‘Cat Poo Coffee’, and yes, believe it or not, that is exactly where it comes from.

The Indonesian Palm civets eat the coffee cherries and defecate. Their digestion process is said to work some magic into the beans and after a thorough wash, the exotic and expensive  beans are ready for the wholesale market. At this point their price is only roughly $450 a kilo. This begs the question, why this tremendous mark-up in retail?  

This is because the Doi Chaang Civet Coffee is made from good quality Arabica beans and not from the more robust but less-valued Robusta beans.

So now we know how it is made. But what does it taste like?  Its value seems to stem from the fact that different coffee aficionados describe it differently. The consensus is that it has the flavour of lush green foliage. Personally, when the urge for this exotic coffee hits me, I think I’ll just head to the nearest tree and chew on some leaves.

The tasters all agreed that it triggered some memories for them and that if they were rich enough they’d buy it.

There have been various studies on whether eccentric consumers with money to blow are driving up prices or if there is some glory in the beans. A study published by a Canadian University says that the civet cat’s digestive juices go through the outer layer of the raw coffee cherry and changes its colour and the coffee bean inside.  This product is then treated by enzymes present in the digestive system which help in developing its unique flavour.

The last word?  If you have a few thousands of rupees in your pocket, go for it! So you can have bragging rights and perhaps wear a tee which announces with pride, “I drank cat poo coffee!”

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