The thought of having animal poop as beverage makes me cringe. However, having a rare and expensive drink for free doesn’t come often. I took it and I was disappointed. It was bad. I expected something unique. Something to brag about.
I am not generalizing things here. Many factors affect coffee quality such as land elevation, climatic conditions, cultural practices and variety. Maybe, the coffee I had, failed on other aspects.
Going back from the beginning. Who was eating the coffee berries?
When I visited the farm, I found coffee beans on the ground. They were in groups that were clumped together by mud or something. It seemed someone was hungry enough to feed on coffee berries.
It turned out, civet cat, which is locally known as alamid, was causing the incident. Eating berries which might have resulted to decreased coffee yield. The damage looked negligible. However, farmers, including my dad, were chasing them away.
Alamid coffee came to existence
A decade after, a unique coffee became the talk of the town. Reaching prices that I would have never imagined. They called it alamid coffee. The coffee from alamid poop.
According to Wikipedia, making coffee from pooped beans originated in Indonesia as early as 19th century.
What the heck is alamid?
Alamid, is also known as Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). According to same source, civet is a small, lean, mostly nocturnal mammal native to tropical Asia and Africa, especially the tropical forests. The term civet applies to over a dozen different mammal species. Most of the species diversity is found in southeast Asia.
So alamid is nocturnal. It explained why I have never seen one feeding on coffee in broad daylight. They love hunting at night and hide during the day.
How does alamid make the unique coffee beans?
Alamid eats coffee berries, then defecates the beans, intact and almost ready for roasting. Rumors said, coffee fermenting inside the animal belly was the reason for its exquisite taste.
I talked to a coffee farmer who was giving coffee berries to a captive alamid, in hope to harvest more poops. Scouring his coffee field only gave less. If he could get more, then it would be a lucrative business.
According to him, the alamid only ate fully ripe berries, few at a time. So, the captive alamid didn’t yield more pooped coffee. At least, he didn’t need to scour his farm.
In addition, berries were not staying inside the belly long enough to be affected by fermentation of sorts. So, picky harvesting might be the reason for good quality, not the fermentation.
In best case scenario, berries are harvested in waves. Getting only the fully ripe while leaving the rest to fully ripen. On the contrary, farmers often harvest their coffee in one fell swoop, resulting to poor quality beans.
Is alamid coffee safe to drink?
It literally came from animal anus. Meaning, the beans were waste material already. It probably contain substances that might be harmful to humans.
Rinsing can remove adhering dirt while roasting temp can kill most microbes. However, there might be microbes or chemical that can withstand high temp. The infamous aflatoxin and ochratoxin, which are not directly related to this case, are examples.
Alamid, being a picky eater could harvest green beans of excellent quality. A better scenario would be, spewing the beans after ingesting the pulp.
How to verify if it’s authentic?
It is tempting. Anyone could just label any coffee as coffee alamid or adulterate the genuine with regular.
Can you discern the real alamid coffee from fake? Most likely not. Unless, you are a hard core scientist who is willing to do lab testing. Like what Udi Jumhawan et al (2013) did. They found markers that may differentiate coffee alamid from fakes.
At least, there is a way. Although, it require effort and budget. Don’t loose hope!
Another is accreditation. Regulatory agency could implement a law requiring sellers to undergo verification and give permits to sellers of good standing. The idea is not new. It is being implemented on sale of organic produce.
You could also buy it as fresh poop. You do the cleaning and roasting. It is still not foolproof. At least, you are quite near to the real thing.