Coffee – to me, is a delicacy wherever I am. I love it brewed any way, shape or form. However, I didn’t realize this standard philosophy would put to the test in Bali.
When given the opportunity to visit a family compound outside of Ubud where they grew and harvested coffee, I didn’t hesitate to go and neither did my husband Kurt. “Awesome!” was my only thought.
After touring the grounds with our kids in tow, we were invited to a tasting — essentialy heaven. Sitting at a picnic table, you leisurely sipped the many varieties of teas and coffees offered by one of the family hosts. Near the table, a hyper mongoose paced in its cage. It seemed rather random, but there was a purpose for this creature as we would soon find out.
At this particular compound, the family offered a highly prized coffee, Kopi Luwak, which is processed in the stomach of the mongoose. The coffee beans are fed to the mongoose and while he or she is digesting them, the enzymes and acids in the stomach break down the coffee, thereby eliminating bitterness.
The catch: the only way to get the processed beans is by waiting for the mongoose to poop them out. Once that has happened, someone gets to pick the beans from the dung and remove the outer layer of the bean so it is finally ready to be roasted. Our host explained this to us and gave us a brochure to read.
Frankly, it sounded like something my son Eddie made up. Like any five-year-old, most of his revelations and stories involved poop, farts, boogers or any other gross products that shoot or drain out of an orifice.
Kurt and I looked at each other, considering the reality of this coffee. Our host looked on proudly as he offered each of us a cup. Every year, people pay good money and even travel to Bali to bring back Kopi Luwak.
“How about some Fecal Folgers?” “Tall cup of nonfat, no foam turds, please.” “Well, I prefer a grande carmel macchiato from Starbutts.” It was too easy to make jokes, but should we drink it? Our dilemma was whether to be culturally sensitive and embrace the pricey offering or to run for the jungle.
Kurt shrugged his shoulders and then both of us picked up the cups offered. If ever there was a one-of-a-kind cultural experience, this was it. After all, being open minded is what travel is all about. I swished the coffee around in the cup. It looked like regular coffee – no suspicious residue.
Time to drink. It was really quite smooth, almost creamy. Actually, it was delicious. The host smiled and nodded as if he knew what we were thinking. He then gave cups to the kids. I put my hand out to halt him, but then stopped. What the hell? Why not? We drank the stuff. At worst, we’d have a night of family bonding and barfing.
Both Eddie and Kasey grinned at each other after they drank the beverage. Part of the thrill, I’m sure, was that they were cosuming something they knew was only for grown ups. We didn’t really tell them about the feces factor.
Basically, however, there was something triumphant for the adults about drinking a beverage involving such an bizarre concept. Also, Kopi Luwak really is a product the Balinese take pride in making and serving. Ultimately, I’d drink poop coffee any day.