Coffeelandia Adventures

Three Coffee-drinking friends separated by time and space meet online for their coffee break to compare their unique choice of coffee. Who had the most beneficial experience?

JITKA (Traveler/blogger in Cebu) on gourmet coffee known as Cat Poop Coffee:

I first encountered Kopi Luwak/Musang at Cafe Ysabel in Greenhills, Manila way back in 2005 when a friend of mine invited me to dinner. While we were chatting, she saw Cafe Ysabel Restaurant owner, Chef Gene Gonzales whom she met at Tagaytay Highlands. She said hello and we were introduced. Chef Gene is a very charismatic person, very funny and knows his food very well. In passing, he mentioned that he was brewing his personal stash of Kopi Musang or Kopi Luwak and invited us to join him and his friends to taste this special coffee which at first I hesitated to drink because of where it came from. But despite my reservations, and for the heck and fun of it, I drank my first cup of what I personally and humorously call ‘cat poop coffee.’

So in the company of culinary greatness, I sipped and did my best to wear my serious face in assessing my “cat poop” cup being careful what to say should I be asked what I thought about it and very careful not to offend our coffee host. But Chef Gene was so light and cool about it and welcomed all remarks, comments including jests and jokes about this coffee which made the experience very enjoyable, not so much for the coffee but for the fun company of new found friends. Plus that night, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to broaden my coffee experience.

If you ask me, I am very happy to share with you the good news that ‘cat poop coffee’ tastes like coffee. Perhaps you expect me to say high falutin words to espouse on its gourmet taste, but maybe my palate is just not that cultured. It really tasted like any other brewed coffee which was good news for me because I had been fearing the worst. Being obsessive-compulsive (OC) and all, I was very concerned that I might taste the “poo” aftertaste and pick up harmful bacteria that comes with poop, but there wasn’t any.

Because of that experience, I researched about it and found out that Kopi Luwak or Kopi Musang is a specialty coffee that is even more expensive than local Arabica coffee. Apparently it retails at $US 700/kilo abroad. In the Philippines, I bought a small bottle to give as a present and it retailed close to a thousand pesos for a 250g bottle. A friend from New York told me that a fresh brew of this popular coffee retailed between $50 to $80 per cup.

So what makes this coffee special? It is said that during the 1800’s the Dutch established their coffee plantations and coffee businesses in their colonies in Java and Sumatra, Indonesia. Part of the rules was to prohibit the natives or workers to pick the coffee berries for their personal use. But the natives couldn’t be prevented from sampling the famed Dutch coffee. Some enterprising workers noticed that the civet cats eat the coffee berries, and defecate the coffee beans. It turned out that the civet cats only digest the coffee berry pulp while the beans go through a special process of fermentation involving unique enzymes in its gut and later on is defecated intact in the wild. When it dries, the droppings are collected, cleaned by separating the bean from poop, after which the endocarp that separates the bean from the poop is further removed from the beans. The last process of roasting will kill any remaining bacteria.

In the normal wild setting, the civet cat would naturally and instinctively choose the perfect, ripe coffee berry ready to be ingested. This natural process of course, is not sustainable on a commercial capacity with its limited supply, giving the beans its ‘rarity’ reputation. Because of this, many artificial farms have been put up where the civet cats are captured from the wild, placed in battery cages, then force-fed the coffee berries to produce the rare Kopi Lowak. Purists and critics however, say that the coffee produced is not the same because the natural process of selection for ripe berries by the cat themselves has been removed and replaced by human intervention.

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“Tastes like bland coffee but as long as there’s no poopy taste, I’m happy. To reorder this for pleasure and to crave it? No!! I’d rather have instant Nescafe 3in1.”

If you ask me IF I would seek kopi luwak out to the ends of the world and pay the high price for it, I would say no. There are many wonderful brewed coffees already available in the coffee shops like Yardstick, Starbucks, CBTL and Costa and I can readily get it whenever I want without paying top bucks for it. But for the experience of it, sure! That is another box ticked off my bucket list.

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Price per cup: P170 brewed
100g bottle: P1,650

(Note: This article is not a review of the Abeseria Café and my review of the coffee in no way reflects their service and food. It just so happened that they were the only café I could find in Cebu that serves the gourmet Kopi Luwak, or what we call in the Philippines, Coffee Alamid. Thanks to the Abeseria Café owner and staff for accommodating my questions.)

@Abeseria Deli & Café
39-B Pres. Quirino St., Villa Aurora in Kasambangan, Cebu City, very near Sarrosa International Hotel. #032-4124196

ARLENE (Artist/photographer in SoCal) on Starbucks TGL’s calorie benefits:

“Graham and sweet cream meet steamed milk and our signature espresso, finished off with a sprinkling of cinnamon graham crumbles for a less sweet perfect treat. “– Starbucks

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Toasted Graham Latte (300 calories)

For me, coffee is a must after a run, a walk or a hike. I make sure that all the calories I lose from my outdoor activities are immediately replaced. While it may seem funny to others, this is always the case for me. So today, after an especially strenuous 3-mile walk, I stopped by my Starbucks corner and ordered one of their newly released seasonal offerings, Toasted Graham Latte (TGL for short). Here is my usual dialogue with the familiar barista.

Barista: Hi good morning, what can I get for you today?
Me: TGL Grande, pumpkin cream cheese muffin and a feta cheese both on plates please.
Barista: You want the muffin warmed up?
Me: Yes please.. and can you make the TGL skinny? half syrup and easy on the whip please, and I’d like Pike Place as my base.
Barista: We don’t put whip on TGL.
Me: (bummer)
Barista: Do you want a receipt for that?
Me: No thanks.

When ordering at a Starbucks place, you have to specify Pike Place brew every time or they just give you the brew of the day. TGL doesn’t come with whipped cream and like they say, it’s less sweet, so it’s more coffee and less of a Starbucks dessert. Personally, the coffee was still too sweet for me, and the toasted graham couldn’t be tasted because it was just sprinkled on top. If I hadn’t specified Pike Place brew, overall TGL would have been an awfully bland coffee.

But to save the day, I also paired my coffee with this toasted vegetarian and protein-rich wrap.

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Spinach and Feta Breakfast Wrap (290 calories)

And of course, what is coffee without one of their decadent bakery goods for dessert?

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin (350 calories)

So, breakfast anyone?

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Price, TGL Grande: $4.95
Paired with the muffins and breakfast wrap
Total: $11.65
Total calories: 940

ADV (blogger in Leyte) on Jackfruit Seeds Coffee and healthy options:

Meeting so many aging and sick people who have suddenly been prevented from eating their favorite foods, and watching their daily struggles against temptation, I wondered what it would be like NOT being able to drink coffee anymore. For health reasons, I have already limited my coffee to one cup a day. For health reasons I have tried detoxing and not drink coffee for a week. And for health reasons I’m always seeking alternative options to coffee, for the day when my doctor tells me “no more coffee for YOU!” A nightmarish scenario!

Ever wondered what those “healthy” alternative herb coffees taste like? Moringa (malunggay) for example, and Ampalaya (marigoso) coffee they actually dare to call coffee? Without trying them out, I always imagine them to be bitter and bland without the added caffeine fun. For me, moringga is good with tinola, and ampalaya as ginisa or with paksiw. Or drank as blended green drinks, but never coffee. Imagine my surprise when I also saw Jackfruit Seeds Coffee being sold at a trade fair, and just produced nearby at VISCA, Leyte. Okay, jackfruit (langka) doesn’t even come close to Jitka’s cat poop coffee. I was just thankful that it wasn’t durian seeds because I would be imagining baby poop coffee, too.

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Since I’m not as adventurous as Jitka or as decadent as Arlene, I chose this pretty mild coffee to review. The VISCA people at the fair had promised me longevity, freed from constipation, anxiety, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, ageing, and ulcers. I drank the coffee at home dreading the taste. I shouldn’t have worried too much. The ‘coffee’ was tasteless, like stale coffee beans you will only drink right after Yolanda when everything tasted good. I was about to throw the rest after a few sip, but then remembered its benefits wasting down the drain. Also, I didn’t want to go to hell so I drank everything, suffering through it like I was already in hell. But I have to admit this, if I’m ever forced to stop drinking coffee, I would probably choose the Jackfruit Seeds Coffee option over moringga and ampalya coffee. (Knock on wood.)

Price: Free sample
Total: Php 0.00

(The free sample which made only 1 cup, came with a leaflet that described, probably for complainers like me, how to labor for and make your own jackfruit seeds coffee. For further information, you can look for the head of DFST at VSU, Baybay Leyte. Or email galvez3352@yahoo.com or robertalauzon@yahoo.com.)

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