There is nothing quite like the aroma of a Starbucks coffee shop at 5:30 in the morning. My sense of smell jumpstarts all of my other senses and there is a tingle which comes from underneath my skin that tells me that I’m starting to wake up. The problem these days is that I have fallen into a bit of a coffee funk.
To lose weight, I ask for a non-fat cappuccino now instead of using the good stuff (oh, half n’ half is what my big fat dreams are made of). In addition, I usually forgo the need for a sweetener, unless it is a special day, and then I add a little Splenda – just enough. I don’t want to go all crazy with that stuff! A recent change that has really grieved me is the switch to decaf. I was told that caffeine can stay in your system for well over 12 hours, so to help improve my sleep, I had to give it up.
My morning routine: Decaf coffee with non-fat, non-dairy creamer and artificial sweetener – What’s the point in getting up now?
Well, on a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and indulge in my beloved drink made from the coffee bean. I drank coffee every day. I had full fat cream in my coffee and real sugar. On a few occasions, I even ordered an extra shot of espresso with a pump of mocha – Heaven!!!
When we arrived in Vietnam, I had only heard rumors of the coffee prowess of these people. We may have a coffee shop on every street corner here in California, but they have 3 on every corner. And when you enter into these shops, the aroma does not produce a tingle under my skin, but a jolt of lightening that goes straight through to the bone.
Their traditional method of preparing this magical elixir is quite unique. No filters allowed here, so you get the full benefit from all that coffee has to offer. A small metal brewing cup, called a phin, is placed on top of your mug with ground beans inside. Hot water is then poured into the coffee grounds, which is then filtered through to your cup which is waiting patiently below. Once this brewing is complete, they add sweetened condensed milk and stir – OMG, Yum!
About half way through my cup of coffee I asked the question that I have learned over the last 25 years of international travel, to never ask – “So, what kind of coffee is this?” I should have known better, but I think I was charmed by this magical potion. I completely lost my sense of reason when feasting on exotic cuisine. I would never ask, “What kind of meat is this?” because most of the time, you just don’t want to know. The rules for international dining are very clear: Smile, say ‘thank you’, swallow and say the prayer “God, if I can get it down, will you please keep it down?” That is it! There should be no further discussion about the food around the table. But, alas I did ask a question to which the answer came, “This is weasel coffee.”
Now at this point, in hindsight, I should have stopped there with my initial belief that “Weasel” was the name brand, but noooo! This coffee had its spell on me. With every sip, I felt like there was a party in my mouth. I must know more about this dark temptation. A second question emerged so effortlessly from my lips, “So, where does Weasel coffee come from?” The answer, “Well, from weasels, of course.”
That was either my coffee cup or my chin. One of them struck the table when I actually realized that I was in another country, consuming food and drink, and asking too many questions!
So here’s the deal. Vietnam is one of several nations which are known for its exotic “natural” coffee plantations and processing. Indonesia has Civet coffee, Ethiopia has a feral cat coffee and now Vietnam has Weasel coffee. Basically, the animal eats the red coffee berry from the tree, which is then processed through its’ digestive tract. The end results are coffee beans which have been ‘organically’ treated with proteolytic enzymes in its stomach which infuses rich amino acids into the bean. This gives the coffee a stronger aroma and reduces the bitterness. The turds – oops, I mean the beans, are harvested from the cage, washed, dried, roasted, ground and sold for about $100 USD for a kilo (½ pound) in Los Angeles and New York. This is for the domestic stuff – the wild “free-range weasels” produce a product that costs nearly $1,000 for a kilo.
Even when I found out what this coffee was, I ignored my basic instincts and continued to enjoy it. It had sort of a chocolaty texture to it and the flavor was a bit nutty. Though I must admit that this was not my number one favorite coffee, it comes in as a close number two.
I received a full education that day in Vietnam about coffee in general, but specifically about the exotic coffee export industry. If you are interested in buying some of this coffee, it is very important that you buy from dealers who are trustworthy. There are reports of coffee exporters who are packaging plain old coffee beans and selling them for a much lower cost. So, don’t be fooled by gimmicks or fancy packaging, you have to pay a lot of money for coffee beans picked out of real weasel doodoo.
One of these days, maybe for a very special occasion, I will forgo my daily Starbucks decaf, non-fat, non-dairy, artificially sweetened cappuccino, and Lorene and I will go into Los Angeles for a nice cup of Weasel Poopuccino.
This is weasel poop… In a basket… Under glass… In the coffee shop!!!
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