Snooty Coffee

Newsweek in its December 18, 2006 issue has a short article on coffee connoisseurship. The adjectives are the same as that used to describe fine wines. Thus, a Guatemalan coffee is “very lively”, “with strong citric notes”. Per Newsweek, the most expensive coffee is from Indonesia. It is claimed that Kopi Luwak beans have been eaten first by the palm civet then pooped out. This is then dried and processed. It retails for US$ 200 (P10,000) a pound, quite a lot for roasted cat droppings.

Nothing new there. A local coffeehouse chain, Bo’s, has been serving a palm civet coffee, called “Café Alamid”, for some time now. The civet cat (although it has feline features, it is more closely related to the mongoose ), known domestically as alamid, supposedly eats only the choicest coffee beans which it then passes out whole. This coffee, presumably, is enhanced by gastric juices and various enzymes that only a civet cat gut can provide. At around US$ 4.50 (P225) for a small cup, civet coffee is not for the budget-conscious.

I suppose this is better than eating the poor civet cat, which is a prized delicacy in southern China and some parts of the Philippines, where it is cooked adobo-style. Still, there’s something a little absurd about this trend of more exotic and more expensive coffees. And its not just coffee. Just last night, at one of the trendier places east of Manila, I was munching on a premium cupcake (cost: about P75.00 or US$1.50). Afterwards, in an even trendier coffeehouse, I had a cup of a premium coffee blend “with just a hint of dipped finger of disgruntled waitress” (P125.00 or US2.50). While these prices may be reasonable in the U.S., this is unconscionably expensive by Philippine standards.

And for a gulper like me, with a decidedly pedestrian palate, one coffee is just like any another. I honestly can’t tell one “premium” blend from the other. Am I supposed to swirl the first mouthful of a fresh pot around and then spit it out in order to discover its “delicate” qualities ? What about donuts or cupcakes ? All I want is the caffeine and/or sugar buzz.

Maybe I’m just trying to justify the fact that’s I’m a cheapskate, but I’ll always be happy with my Café Puro, Blend 45 (forty-five choice coffee beans in every cup!), Great Taste or Nescafe instant. Now if I can just get our Siamese cat to acquire a taste for fresh coffee beans…

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