Well, sort of, and it was very delicious. Here’s how it happened.
One of the best days we had in all our time in Bali was spent biking through the countryside, starting high up on the slopes of Mount Batur — one of Bali’s volcanoes, overlooking its crater lake, and then riding 25km down through some interesting and off-the-beaten-track scenery.
One of our stops was at a coffee plantation, where I was fascinated to learn about luwak coffee. It’s one of the world’s most unusual and expensive types of coffee — unusual even more so because it’s cultivated in a country where, generally, things tend to be extraordinarily cheap. But the process of extracting luwak coffee is so intricate and laborious, and its yields are so sparse compared with regular coffee, that by the time it is poured into a cup in some corners of the world it can fetch anywhere from $50-$100. Yes, $100. Per cup.
Put quite simply, a luwak (the Balinese name for civet) eats coffee beans. In its stomach, an apparently wondrous series of digestive actions befall the beans, fermenting and perfecting them before the luwak does what luwaks do and poops them out. A luwak coffee expert then rounds up the luwak turds, sorts through them, extracts the coffee beans from the poo, washes the beans (I hope), then grinds them up into coffee and provides the world with one of its stranger delicacies.
Since we were at source, I paid something closer to $5 than $50 for this cup of
catpoocino crappucino, and it was, I must say, delicious.
It all begs the rather obvious question, who discovered this, and how desperate were they for a cup of coffee? (The downside of luwak coffee, of course, is that civets suffer for it, kept in captivity in relatively poor conditions, with the variety of their diet diminished and their normal lives disrupted as they become coffee-producing commodities. Recent indications abound that ‘ethical’ procurement of the product is in ever increasing demand and that this demand is, supposedly, being ever more widely met.)
Emboldened by my sudden jolt of luwak catfeine, I let this guy walk all over me. Though I don’t think I was bitten, Meg has said I’ve started behaving a little strangely lately, superhuman almost, and I know exactly who I’m going as for Halloween.
We stopped in verdant rice fields and in a Balinese village, saw traditional dwellings and a homestead, even saw a snake eating a frog in a rice field, kicked a soccer ball with some kids on a thorny field near a banyan tree, and rode on waving to all the other kids that came out to greet us.
All of which, it must be said, is far more interesting and worthwhile than drinking poo. But still, I drank poo. Sort of.