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Civet Cat Coffee

I can't believe that the recent Rough Draft column on the perfect cup of coffee somehow left out the importance of harvesting beans that have passed through a civet cat:

"Marcone found that in both cases the civets' digestive action broke down proteins in the beans into smaller molecules that added to the flavour and aroma of the coffee on roasting. Some proteins were leached out of the beans completely, making the resulting coffee less bitter."

Perhaps it's not as simple as putting Maxwell House into a Mr. Coffee, but when you care about your java you will go to any length for the perfect cup. Best of all, I have the "equipment" at home to do this sort of coffee preparation. Gonna put them dang cats to some use, finally. No more lazing around the house like they're royalty. They're going to be bean-leaching factories whether they like it or not.

Heeeeeere, kitty kitty kitty....

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 2, 2006; 7:55 AM ET
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Guess they should change the name of that animal to "sieve-it cat"

Posted by: TBG | March 2, 2006 8:09 AM | Report abuse

One of my cats is already called Beans. Pressing her into service will excite Weingarten's love of aptonyms, my wife's love of coffee, and, needless to say, Beans.

Posted by: byoolin | March 2, 2006 8:19 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: SHILOH | March 2, 2006 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Didn't I read something a while back (possibly in this forum) that this civet cat coffee is just a big hoax, sort of like Cuban cigars? That, given the limits on supply (there are only so many civet cat "farms" and they can only poop so fast) there's no way all this coffee could come from where they claim?

Posted by: jw | March 2, 2006 8:24 AM | Report abuse

.... ......... .. ........ .. . ....... ....

Posted by: SHILOH | March 2, 2006 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Gosh, I hope I'm not being monitored on this network. Anyway, I once had a cup of civet coffee. I was not impressed. Perhaps this is because I am not sufficiently sophisticated to detect the subtleties. I like my coffee intense enough to hold up to all the junk I add. You know, "lotta sugar lotta cream." Maybe to a true apostle the civet beans would be worth it. But I'll stick to Starbucks. Of course, if you really want good flavor, do like my granny used to do and go with strong black tea. That'll kick you upside the head. But please, do not feed it to your cat. The world isn't quite ready for that.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 2, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

There's nothing like a cup of strong civet-cat coffee to accompany my steak and kidney pie. Then, when I want to get the most out of my fly algaric, that someone has already consumed, drinking their urine won't be so yicky, probably.

Posted by: Dave | March 2, 2006 8:36 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: SHILOH | March 2, 2006 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I just want to note that at some point today The Schemer and various other personages at may make a decision on the font of the Boodle. If you have an opinion about this, please go to the previous Comment thread and speak your mind. Now is the time.

Posted by: Achenbach | March 2, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Joel, can we assume that Civet Cat coffee will be added to your Lent list?

Posted by: rep | March 2, 2006 8:52 AM | Report abuse


.. ..... ........ ... ...... .. . .... .... .... .. .... . .....


Posted by: SHILOH | March 2, 2006 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Good luck getting your cats to eat coffee beans. You're probably going to have to implant them one by one, like you give them medicine (*not* suppositories): Stick a bean in, hold their mouth shut, tickle their throat until they swallow, repeat.

It'll be funny to hear them run away, sounding like ambulatory bean bag chairs.

Funny until the harvest from the Box 'o Joy, that is.
Question: manual removal, sifter, or perhaps a nice media blaster?

Second question: If you feed the cats 18" of string with the beans, perhaps you can speed up the harvest by gently pulling the string when it appears, like a candy necklace or olde-fashioned rock candy...


Posted by: bc | March 2, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Joel- does Gene drink coffee?

I think some of your home-grown cat beans would make a fine holiday gift for co-workers. A nicely wrapped gift box, containing the processed beans in their natural wrappers (for guaranteed freshness - you wouldn't give a friend a peeled apple, would you?), would show how much you REALLY care.


Posted by: bc | March 2, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

.. ..., ..., BLIND, ........, ... ..... .... -/ ......., ... ..... .. ..... .... ...., ... ..../ ....... ...... ..... - ... .... . ..... ......;/
Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
... ......... .. ..... ........ ....... .....,/.... .... ...., ..... .. ....., ....... . ..../ . ...... ....... ... ....... .. ... ........ .....-

-Percy Bysshe Shelley
England in 1819

fragments in embedded micro bondoni font.

Posted by: PBS | March 2, 2006 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to stray off topic (surprise!) this morning to discuss a recent developement that I find particularly troubling. We have all seen the encroachment of crass commercialism into every aspect of American life. We have been dismayed as one by one our cultural icons have been co-opted and usurped to serve the base purposes of capitalist greed. But at some point each of us must reach a point of rebellion, a level of disgust and revulsion which provokes the outcry of "Stop, stop. This far, and no farther." For me, that level has been reached. When I see my childhood idol shilling for cars and hawking pizza on the tube, I reach that tipping point where disquiet turns to outrage. Yes, I'm talking Kermit the Frog here. Whether he was singing "Carribean Amphibian" on Sesame Street or playing Bob Cratchit in the Muppet Christmas Carol, you always knew that Kermit was honest and innocent, as true blue, er, green, as a frog could be. But now we see him in the role of constant huckster for Ford and Pizza Hut, and a line has been crossed. Could this be a sign of the ultimate decline of our civilization? Yes, I think it could.

Now I know that some may say, "But K-guy, Miss Piggy's in the pizza spot, too." To them I reply, "Yeah, so? I mean, we've always known that she has the moral values of, well, a pig."

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 2, 2006 9:21 AM | Report abuse

bc, Beans the cat once did eat a length of red yarn from the skein my wife was knitting with. When we noticed she had a four-inch-long secondary tail, we had to gently draw it out of her. The sound that a cat makes when that is done is not easily described.

Posted by: byoolin | March 2, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Well, k-guy, you know it's not easy making green.

Posted by: TBG | March 2, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Joel, maybe we have the hippie cosmic mental vibe thing going today.

(By the way, on a Friday when Joel was out of town in the way past, the Boodle discussion focused on civet cat coffee--with lots of valuable comments made [for my benefit] by both K-guy and Science Tim on the civet. What date was that?)

The reason I say that Joel and I have the hipie cosmic mental vibe thing going is that today Joel does a Kit on kopi luwak coffee. The way I learned about it was through local author David Liss. Liss is not really local, but grew up in Florida, went to Columbia in NYC, and moved here with his wife who teaches at Trinity University.

The one thing I admire most about Liss is that when he works on a book, he says that he can go a month without seeing another person, so focused is he on writing. He insists only an Swanson TV dinners and all other flat foods with a height of not more than 1.5 inches that can be slipped under the door of his study. Liss practices the strictest forms of self-denial while writing. For example, he only looks at the photos of his wife and daughter on his desk since they aren't allowed into the inner sanctum of his office/library. The last time Liss emerged from his office, he was amazed to discover his young daughter has grown an inch. After liss' next book, now in progress, I'm sure he'll learn that his daughter is dating. But I digress.

Liss wrote the The Coffee Trader, which is a mighty fine read:

Very ODDLY, very COINCIDENTALLY, Liss is speaking tonight at 7 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble across from North Star Mall (the mall made very famous by the pair of giant cowboy boots outside--of sufficient size to fit the likes of Paul Bunyan and me) about his newest book, "The Ethical Assassin."

Liss' newest novel is a departure from the historical fiction that cast him into the national spotlight. In "The Ethical Assassin," Liss takes his readers to Florida in the mid-1980s to cast an asoiring college-bound encyclopedia salesman named Lem Altick into a messy tale of drugs and murder. Unlike his three previously successful books, Liss draws quite a bit of attention to himself in his new story. Like Lem Altick, the protaganist of "Assassin," Liss grew up in Florida (as I mentioned), sold encyclopedias door to door, and attended Columbia University (as I mentioned). Both Lem and Liss are Jewish. Moreoever, Liss is a vegan who, on his Internet site, urges readers to consider the cruel treatment of animals raised for food while deciding their diets. (Oh, shades of author John Robbins.)

It must have been well over a year ago, when Liss and I were in a writers discussion circle at Gemini Ink, and Liss had just finished the manuscript for his vegan tale, so I'll be curious to see how his Florida narrative turned out. Liss likes to tease me savagely, such is his wit, whenever we encounter each other, so I plan to attend tonight's book signing dressed as either a lamb or a calf.

Of course, I, at one time, suggested to Liss that he move his Benjamin Weaver series to American soil, and set up a plot around the founding of the New York Stock exchange under a giant sycamore (I think it was) tree, near a coffee house in NYC, on May 17, such-and-such a year. I was hot on the idea for Liss at the time and had all the details. (Was I ever hot for Liss? He is such a blonde cutie. Nice slim figure, but then again he eats no meat. He practically near killed me at one time by serving coffee made in the 16th century tradition. If Liss ever makes you that same offer, well, my best advice is just to run like hell...)

According to San Antonio Express-News business writer David Hendricks who last Sunday reviewed "Assassin"--and didn't care for it very much--Liss' next effort will again treat raders to a new installment of the Benjamin Weaver tales.

Hendrick's review of "Assassin" is here:

But I digress on Liss. More on kopi luwak coffee momentarily.

Posted by: Loomis | March 2, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse


byoolin - I've found that strings/ribbons tend to come out naturally, and that the other cat thinks it's extra incentive to chase the string bearer around the house at all hours of the night.


Posted by: bc | March 2, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

K-guy and Science Tim were helping me not with coffee knowledge or the tale of the kopi luwak/fruit processing method, but helping me figure out what--perscisely--kind of animal a civet is.

Posted by: Loomis | March 2, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Is this civet cat coffee bean stuff found at Starbucks? If so, thank heavens I've never, through no fault of my own, managed to drink a cup of their coffee. Sadly ditto on the yarn/cat story. EWWW

We expect Miss Piggy to shill, but Kermit? Kguy pegs it right. Civilisation can only go into a steep decline after this.

I am now going back to my previously scheduled coffee with a little bit of bite.

Posted by: dr | March 2, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I f you tell someone their civet cat coffee tastes like it was scraped out of a pile of kiity litter, is that compliement or not?

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Message to Tim,

Re your last night msg, I must admit to not being into very finegrained pattern recognition they way you are. I just notice big presence/absence kinds of things.

Also, strange things may happen when personalities are split multiple ways. Having three or more handles is just a clue of what may develop. And it is not all bad, unless s/he wants it to be.

Maybe you can get a job at NSA.

Posted by: goombahgirl | March 2, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse


I think this is your original post on civet cat coffee. It's neat to know that lots of kits get expanded to full columns eventually, but Joel needs to give better attribution when he starts stealing from the boodle as well as the kit.

Just kidding, Joel. Just pointing out that civet cats are already the Official Ambiguously Marsupial Mammal of the Boodle.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 2, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

New kit posted, in which several of us boodlers are quoted.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 2, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

The best book I have ever read--hands down--about the history of coffee is Stewart Lee Allen's 1999 "The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee."

Allen travels the world round in pursuit of his coffee tales. [Joel, I just don't know why you think Simon Winchester is so indulgent in his book about the San Francisco quake? His travels in pursuit of his story aren't much different than Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley," or Bruce Feiler's touring of the Holy Lands, or Miles Harvey's trials and tribulations in chasing the map thief in "Island of Lost Maps."]

From Allen's chapter titled, "Monkey Droppings," pp. 79-80.

Actually, I had read about this stuff. Monkey Coffee was something that existed in the 19th century, supposedly the best brew in the world.

"So there really is such a thing?" I asked.

"It is a well-known fact. I have read it is a delicacy in some countries."

"Yes, yes. I've read that too. They say it is because the monkeys will pick only the best, the ripest berries, right?"

"So some say. Others claim it is the chemical reaction within the bowels."


"Yes. The monkeys eat the beans and then pass them through their digestive system. That is the monkey coffee."

"You mean it's monkey, uh, feces?"

"As I said, nobody drinks it here. They are unclean animals." He wrinkled his nose. "But it was a terrible problem in Shrevenoot. The monkeys ate all the best beans."

I was never quite sure whether to believe all this until much later, back in the States, when I discovered that Monkey Coffee had recently become part of hte gourmet coffee roster.

It does not, however, come out of either a monkey or India, but a small Indonesian creature called the palm toddy cat, a noctural tree lover tht lives on naturally alcoholic tree sap used to make palm toddy (wine) and fresh coffee berries. Whether it's because the animal's intestinal juices impart some special flavor (perhaps because of its alcoholic diet) or merely because it eats only perfectly ripe berries, the toddy cat's droppings, cleaned, produce what many say is the world's finest coffee.

Japan buys most of the stuff nowadays, but the U.S. firm of M. P. Mountanos (800-229-1611) (San Francisco, I believe) sells it under the name Kopi Luwak at about $300 a pound, making it the world's most expensive cup of joe.

Another firm, called Raven's Brew Coffee (Alaska) sells it by the quarter pound for $75 and in that grand American tradition, throws in a free T-shirt showng the beast hard at work with a cup under its ass and the caption, "Good to the Last Dropping."

*According to Raven's Brew Coffee's website, the kopi luwak coffee is no longer available, and they have no further plans to restock it. But a close approximation of the graphic used on the T-shirt that used to accompany an order of kopi luwak coffee from Raven's Brew is here:

Posted by: Loomis | March 2, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Thnaks, yellojkt, for the link--I'm fully aware that Joel stole my idea from October last. Actually, I'm a bit flattered that Joel pays any attention at all to the Boodle.

Posted by: Loomis | March 2, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

rhetoric of reality/george will/wapo
thursday,march 2nd,2006,page A21 will's column today points out
bush2 needs a new speech about iraq...i
agree...bush2 has repeated the speech's
"bush2 on iraq" takes enough...granted this
speech allows him to sound and appear on
the upbeat but events have now overrun the
...we may be at the edge of seeing iraq
fall into civil war or worse a religous
flavored purging and counterpurging...
visions of india and pakistan not seeming
impossible... perhaps now quite
surely was simplemindedness back there in
2002 and early 2003 to have rushed and
narrowbanded the discussion and debate of
entering iraq to rid it of saddam...
...the aftermath was so sorely underviewed
as to outcome...instead the rush was on
and mission accomplished bunting put up
with little sense of the long playouts...
...bush2 seems unable to reset his mind
as to what has happened or may happen in
...indeed after three years of conflict in
iraq it is fair to question the entire
idea of regime change...
...have we caged one monster of iraq only
to unleash greater ones?
...bush2 should indeed change the iraq
speech and he would do well to better give
all americans a more complete view of the
iraq adventure...we went in for the oil,
saddam was a sideshow to that,we may have
created a second iran and will ultimately
have a similar aftermath of being shut out
...with the 2006 election comes the talk
of war wind down...likely we will see a
need for more troops going in just to make
any final retreat possible...the going in
was inept...the getting out may well prove

Posted by: an american in siam... | March 2, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, and don't frogs eat bugs?

Are we going to see "bug pizza" from Pizza hut as a Kermit frog special? We should, otherwise having a frog shill makes no sense.

Now, in France, maybe they have "pizza avec jambes des grenouilles", and Kermit could shill for that... presumably on crutches.

A bite before he's told-- and "AAUGGGGGHHHHH, I'm eating my own legs!" and hopping out.

They're trying to get people to stop eating frog's legs in France, not because they hate the national nickname, but because they worry about frogs going extinct and the abuse to frogs.

The old, childhood hero Kermit would approve. Or not. "Now I have no excuse NOT to visit Paris with Miss Piggy and watch her shop all day..." THUD THUD THUD (head against wall).

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 2, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I'm probably posting this days too late - but just as a warning to the cat lovers out there: it is a very bad idea to pull anything out of a cat. If they swallow string or yarn (which is a good not to let them near it, no matter how fascinating they find it) it can tangle up their intestines and may result in surgery and or death. Pulling on the ingested item may only make things worse. Obviously, it doesn't always end badly - but why risk it? Just call your vet.

On the civet coffee thing, I realise it was a joke, and hopefully everyone here knows that domestic cats are not civet cats (whose lives suck badly enough as it is), and that the coffee idea shouldn't be tried. I apologise to anyone offended by my (probably obvious) comment, but the sheer volume of idiots I've met has encouraged me to be ever vigilant.

Posted by: MNiM | March 9, 2006 4:48 AM | Report abuse

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