Recently, my wife and her friend took a vacation to New Orleans. When she returned, she brought back two bricks of Community Coffee.
Now, folks, I’m something of a coffee aficionado, by which I mean I drink a lot of it. I’m not a coffee snob; I’ll just as happily guzzle a cup of $.99 gas station coffee as I will a cup of Kopi Luwak.
What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of Kopi Luwak? That’s probably because you can’t afford it. A pound of Kopi Luwak costs between $100 and $600 American. Why so much? Because the coffee berry, along with insects, small mammals, small reptiles, the eggs of nesting birds and other fruit, also happens to be the normal diet of the Asian Palm Civet, a cat-sized mammal, similar to a streamlined raccoon, native to South-east Asia and southern China.
The Asian Palm Civet eats the coffee berries, but the bean inside (the one we grind up) is not digested. Kopi Luwak beans are harvested from the feces of the Asian Palm Civet. It is believed that the enzymes from the civet’s stomach break down the proteins that give coffee its bitter taste. The beans are then only lightly roasted as not to disturb the “complex flavors” that result.
Needless to say, Asian Palm Civet poop is fairly rare which makes it valuable, ergo the premium price. It’s probably also very expensive because of what went into the early Research and Development phase. How much animal poop did they have to pick through before they found a nugget that didn’t taste like…well…poop when they combined it with hot water? I highly doubt that they got it right the first time.
Anyway, the claim to fame of Community Coffee is its infusion of chicory. I will confess that when my wife told me this, I had no idea what chicory was, but it sounded hearty and robust. At the very least, it was representative of New Orleans which automatically made the drinker world-wise and cosmopolitan.
In an attempt to flagrantly display my savior faire, at a recent family gathering, I subtly let slip to my mother-in-law that we were in possession of this amazing coffee. What made it so amazing? Why the chicory, of course.
“Doesn’t chicory grow by the side of the road?” she said.
“Well…um. Does it?” I replied.
“I think it does.”
“Huh. Well, whaddya know.”
So, later, I looked it up and, sure enough, chicory grows as a wild plant along the road side in Europe, the United States and Australia. It’s also known as “blue sailors,” succory and coffeeweed. So why would a coffee company add such a pedestrian plant to their product? Well, I looked that up, too.
Turns out it came from a coffee shortage during the Civil War. New Orleansians managed to extend their coffee supply by adding the ground and roasted root of the endive plant (chicory).
If only they had gone straight to the animal feces, today Community Coffee would be rolling in it; both poop and money. The good news is that it’s never too late. Surely there’s an animal out there whose digestive tract is perfect for the next great coffee. I’m going to start with my dog. Crappuccinos all around!