I met Garrick yesterday at Coffee & Tea, Ltd. in Linden Hills to have a cup of Kopi Luwak. It’s really worth following that link to Wikipedia if you haven’t heard of Kopi Luwak, because it’s the sort of story that you’re not going to believe, so you might as well read it from a source you’re not quite going to believe, either. :)
When I worked at the Roastery, we sold Kopi Luwak, and I had my chance to roast and taste more than my share of this unique coffee. Talk about pressure: green (unroasted) coffee was running us about $2 or $4 a pound at the time, but this stuff was $100 a pound. A mistake would be expensive. And it still makes me laugh: we’re drinking coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a palm civet? How is that not hilarious?
It really does taste different: musty, heavy, rich, strangely complex. Hints of chocolate, old wood, hazelnut. Fresh out of the roaster, it smelled a bit like a newborn baby’s urine. This sounds compelling, I know, but it’s the only hint of its scatological origins. In the hours following roasting, the flavor changed dramatically. A day later, it was like a completely different coffee. Still had that mustiness, still deeply rich, but its few higher notes had faded. I’ve never had another coffee that changed so much so fast.
Jim Cone, proprietor and local coffee legend, said that they roast only a pound at a time, usually enough for about a week. I suspect that what Garrick and I were tasting was more than a couple days old, enough so that much of its delightful or even interesting characteristics had faded. It was good, but not great. Not what I remember. But a good excuse to reconnect with Garrick.
Jim roasts his coffee darker than I prefer, tending more to what you’ll find on the West Coast. If you’ve had Peets, you know what I mean. When something is that dark, it’s hard to taste the subtleties that I’m looking for. No discredit to Jim — as I say, he’s a legend, with good reason: he’s been roasting small batches of speciality coffee for ages, on a roaster that looks like it’s had its share of trips to the local blacksmith. I just don’t usually care for that particular roasting style.
Still, I came home with a half-pound of beans from Nepal. I didn’t even know they grew coffee in Nepal. Nice.