The most expensive coffee in the world can be found only in a few countries including the Philippines. Known locally as Alamid coffee, it was discovered in the forests as the wild civet cats leave a trail of droppings with coffee beans in it. The beans from these droppings are picked up by forest dwellers, washed, cleaned, peeled off from its parchment, roasted and consumed. Some claim that this coffee has a distinct flavor or texture that regular coffee does not have.
I just had to know more. I tried and tasted Alamid coffee and I have to say that for me it was no big WOW.
The exotic nature of the Alamid coffee creates a demand from the curious. The high priced beverage and coffee sparks a chain reaction for hunters and pickers to be innovative. The cats are paying a high price, as some farmers have found a way to produce the Alamid coffee en masse to meet the demand for it both for local consumption as well as for export.
First, we have to understand that the alamid or civet cat is omnivorous. It eats fruits and other vegetation, insects and other smaller animals. Coffee is not its only primary diet. Consider too that coffee is seasonal, hence we can conclude that the alamid eats other plants and animals when coffee is not in season. The cat is also nocturnal and prowls at night and would defecate during this time.
While digesting the coffee cherries, the alamid will also be digesting all the other food it has eaten. The physiologic and chemical process that happens inside the digestive track of the alamid will definitely contribute to the unique taste of the coffee bean.
Finally when the coffee bean is excreted on the forest floor, one can expect that the moist excreted waste from the animal will be contaminated by dirt and eventually be covered by molds and flies.
Only when found, picked up, washed and dried again will it have the familiar shape of the coffee bean in parchment.
The alamid does not choose if it is Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa or Liberica. So it is believed that unless the civet cat is eating from a large farm or estate planted to only one type of coffee, the alamid will be eating different varieties of coffee and the processed alamid coffee should be of multiple variety, shape & size. Thus, something like a premixed blend of varieties prior to roasting.
Each kind coffee will give is own character too. Along with the infusion of what the alamid digestive process will contribute.
A question to keep in mind is… When each coffee eaten gives its own input and is never the same volume when eaten… is there consistency to this? What would really contributes to the significant unique flavor if any to the cup one would drink?
A process known as wash process can result in a coffee of similar in taste to that of the alamid coffee. Pulping off the cherry at its ripest stage then fermenting it overnig
ht,would be parallel as to the civet eating the cherry and digesting the seed overnight. The seeds are washed again and dried in parchment in the same manner that the seeds in parchment excreted by the civet have to be washed and dried. Similarly, both have to be milled or polished then roasted.
To boost the production of alamid coffee, some people in the coffee business have resorted to keeping civet cats in captivity. One can only imagine what the caged cats go through during captivity- a wild nocturnal animal kept awake during the day as well as night and not wanting to eat as any wild animal would do when captured. Starving and weak, the cats consume anything thrown its way from unripe fruits, rotting vegetables even darak and to a variety of coffee beans ripe or unripe.I will not generalize; I only speak of what I have seen. And what I have seen does not fall under fair trade practices. What I can share and recommend is be conscious of what you buy and drink. Get certified animal friendly products.
Lastly, in simple scary words, the civet cats are the carriers of the SARS Virus. These cats in captivity under the watch full eye of its caretaker exposes him most likely to the virus. The risk of another epidemic may be just around the corner. Would these producers and exporters that in one way or another encourage the capturing, culturing, domestication and caging of these civet cats be accountable for an epidemic should one break out?
Below are links for the curious to read more on Civet cat & SARS.
www.newsgd.com/news/picstories/200410110041.htm - 23k
www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/11/health/main592533.shtml - 89
news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3381645.stm - 40k
www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/SARS-Transmitted-By-Civet-Cat-- u2013-Say-Scientists-In-Chin-16038-1/ - 33k