What happens when a Civet cat (paradoxurus hermaphrodites) eats coffee beans for dinner, and poop’s it out before breakfast? I’ll tell you what: The worlds finest gourmet coffee that’s both expensive and rare!
Well you heard it right… it’s no joke… indeed this top shelf coffee derived from excreta can cost above 600 US dollars per pound! Hard to believe the most expensive coffee in the world comes from one of Coorg’s wild felines, the Palm civet’s poop (Punugina Bekku in Kodava dialect – aka Pane-poonjhee or the ‘toddy tree cat’). It’s a dark brown tree-dwelling weasel-like creature about the size of a housecat. It sports a pointed muzzle, with round brown eye and dark long tail and is actually found throughout Southeast Asia. It is said that they eat only the perfectly ripe seeds & the acid treatment in their digestive system practically cooks the beans giving the seeds that sought after taste. I cannot confirm it because I have not tasted it, and neither do I plan to either 🙂 So now you know how the taste buds of the world’s rich folk work. The chief diet of the Civet cat is not coffee however, and its staple food is the fruit of the wild fig tree and sago palm.
Growing up, the Civet used to be very common all over Coorg and I have vivid picture of it, but haven’t seen one in ages. Years ago I memeber having seen the Civet poo coffee seed on some big rocks beside the creek. My late father told me it came from the Pane-poonjhee’s stomach. He would say “Alli pokate kunji kakka undu” (don’t go that side child there is shit). In fact the poo did not look like poo at all. Vividly I remember that it was few whole coffee seeds stuck together with little dried up liquid. Dad would say these creatures come to eat the coffee berries in the night… such a nuisance!
Between the skin & seed of the coffee berry, there is a very, very thin layer of sweet liquid. It’s so thin you can barely enjoy it. I know it because sometime I would put ripe berries also in my mouth, but I never ate it though!! Looking back I wonder how I did not end up eating any poisonous berry as I ate any sweet fruit I could lay my hand on! We never knew the importance of the poop coffee seed & also for me, kakka is kakka no matter who shits it. Hahahahaha!
In this ever shrinking animal & plant world, it’s hard to find the civet coffee seeds in nature. However in some countries like Indonesia civets are farmed for this purpose. A strange thought is passing through my mind… just imagine instead of civet poo if it was pandi (Pig) pooo… oh… boy how much money we Coorgs could make!
Note: Similar to the civet is the black jungle-cat (kabbekku). In Kodagu the kabbekku meat was a delicacy, so it was hunted at night, now it’s almost extinct… Wonder if it has a fairer cousin?
(Part 5 of 9)