Strong coffee. Is that what kick-starts your day? For me, it’s a nice cup of tea that wakes me up. I enjoy good coffee, but it’s increasingly a luxury for which I pay in lost sleep. And the older I get, the worse it gets.
So as the after-effects of an afternoon coffee left me tossing and turning last night, my mind whirled and whirred and my thoughts turned to the way in which coffee is now perceived.
No longer do we spoon out grains of “instant” coffee from a jar, splash in the milk and stir in the sugar. The choices are bewildering and sometimes bizarre.
Remember the running joke in the movie The Bucket List, where Jack Nicholson’s billionaire character is an afficionado of what he calls “the most expensive beverage in the world”, kopi luwak?
I’ve tasted kopi luwak. It was in the most unlikely place, a rustic country tea house about 45km west of the tropical Queensland city of Townsville. At that time, a few years ago, Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms was one of the few places in Australia – or indeed the world – that was serving this exotic brew.
Owners Michelle and Allan Sharpe were importing the Indonesian coffee, charging $50 a cup, and the tourists were beating a path to the door of their historic split-log inn by the hundreds.
The roaring trade was largely due to their clever marketing of what they dubbed “cat-poo coffee”. The cat-like luwak or Asian Palm Civet lives in the coffee-growing regions of Indonesia. They like eating ripe coffee cherries, but do not digest the inner bean, which can later be retrieved from their droppings. The beans are washed, dried and roasted lightly. The digestive juices in the luwak’s stomach break down proteins in the beans, making a smoother brew with no bitterness.
And so I drank it. Good, but not so much that I wanted another one. And as a tea drinker, I’m not sure I could the difference between it and a $4 cup of espresso.
Now I read that another coffee has upped the ante on kopi luwak. Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas’ four resorts in the Maldives have become the first in the world to serve Black Ivory Espresso, a coffee that sells for around $1100 per kilogram, making it one of the most expensive and exclusive in the world.
And the reason for this? Black Ivory Coffee is made from Thai Arabica coffee beans that are digested by Thai elephants in the same way as kopi luwak is “refined” by the Indonesian civet.
This news itself takes me some time to digest. The best part is that a percentage of all coffee sales goes to Anantara’s Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand, which works to improve the plight of elephants, along with their mahouts and families.
As I left the tea rooms that day after drinking cat-poo coffee, I looked at the visitor’s book. Someone had written: “Superb, bizarre, rare and decadent.”
To me, that seems to sum up these new trends in coffee-drinking pretty well.