by Pamela Robin Brandt
What makes a cup of coffee worth $40?
At the Hotel Victor’s cutting edge global restaurant Vix, which serves a forty-buck Indonesian brew called Kopi Luwak (translation: civet coffee), the key seems to be the coffee beans’ processing through the digestive system of a palm civet, a cat-like nocturnal mammal. On its nighttime strolls through the mountains of Sulawesi and Sumatra, famed coffee-growing islands, the gourmet kitty eats only the best coffee cherries, digesting the sweet ripe fruit and depositing clumps of the indigestible inner coffee beans on the jungle floor. Hand gathered and medium-dark roasted (after careful cleaning), it becomes the world’s rarest—and, at $150-300 per pound retail—most expensive coffee.
Cat poop coffee.
But no, it does not taste like anything that comes out of a litter box. Digestive acids naturally ferment the beans, resulting in a brew with a uniquely strong yet smoothed-out taste, full of complex nuances. The cup we quaffed at Vix was almost reminiscent of a great cafecito, but far gentler with somewhat of an earthy quality (typical of all quality Indonesian coffees).
Those willing to skip the trip through the luwak’s digestive tract entirely can sample Indonesian coffees’ prized elegant mustiness with a $13.95 pound of Sulwesi-Kalosi from the USA’s primo artisan coffee company, Peet’s, or a pound of Peet’s Sumatra beans (available at Fresh Market in Aventura or Coconut Grove) for just $10.95. Alternatively, for more hardcore Do It (or Brew It) Yourself curiosity seekers, a $25 mail order Mini Luwak deluxe gift box from AnimalCoffee.com provides an ounce of Kopi Luwak (two to three cups) in a wooden display box—which also includes a souvenir keychain fashioned from a genuine bean-packed luwak deposit, encased in Lucite, to prove that this kopi’s the real poop.