Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Cat Shit Coffee

I've been to Indonesia half a dozen times and it's the only country I've been to where the food is consistently terrible. During my current trip, I was given at least two meals that actually made me angry. After one bite of the oxtail soup, I felt like grabbing the entire bowl and throwing it as hard as I could against the wall. Who the fuck likes to fight with grisly bony gritty chunks of flavorless meat in their soup? And at a recent dinner, they fed us this horribly bony duck which was literally all skin and bones -- just a big plate of bones. See, that's the thing with bad food in Asia; it's bad mostly because it's full of mouth-tearing bones or tough meat so your meal feels like a battle.

But what I had a few days ago was another type of annoying food: the gimmick. I'm talking about civet cat coffee, or called locally, "kopi luwak". I've known about civet coffee which I've always thought was stupid as shit and had no interest in seeking it out. This is a type of coffee made from coffee beans that have been eaten by a type of wild cat that lives in the mountains of Indonesia. The idea is that the beans are partially digested and then shit out, which makes for a smoother, less bitter coffee which can sell for up to $350 a pound. But I call bullshit on the whole thing. It's just a gimmick, and Asians love their gimmicks when it comes to food. Sadly, many of the gimmicks involve abuse of animals like drinking rice wine in Vietnam with a still-beating cobra heart in it, or eating a live octopus in Korea. But at least these cats only get their shit taken from them. The joke is really on the people.

So, some back story. I've been sick with an infected wisdom tooth the entire time I've been in Indonesia. During the first part of the week, I had a fever for four days. But I still had to work, so we drove around through the most dangerous driving conditions imaginable. I always sit in the back seat so I don't have to witness my near-demise every 30 minutes. On the way to the meeting on our 6 hour drive, I saw a flipped car with glass scattered all over the place. Off to the side, was the dead driver sprawled out on the highway with blood covering his face. This is also the kind of thing that makes you feel less safe.

We arrive at the meeting, and I meet with one of the coffee growers who I give a sales pitch to. He starts telling me that he's the head of the local farmers' association and also is involved in making civet coffee. I'm intrigued. I ask if we can see the cats, and he says we can after lunch. So lunch comes, and it's the usual completely inedible Indonesian crap. I ask for a bowl of vegetable soup, but it still tastes like the oxtail soup I'd had before. Anyway, I head to the bathroom and immediately projectile vomit it back out. After I recover slightly, I head back into the restaurant, and I shit you not, they had this cat shit coffee waiting for me, just steaming there in the cup. So basically, after I'd just hurled out their awful food, they literally force me to drink something that came out of a wild animal's ass. Just unbelievable.

After lunch and our meetings, I still have a fever and all I want to do is go home. But I'd asked to see these fucking cats, so off we go. We pull up to this building way up in the green mountains in a driving rain storm. I enter the building and we're met by a guy filming me with a professional video camera. What the fuck is this. Anyway, I try and ignore it, but as we walk in, the room is full of all these people, including a woman who looked like a model. We sit around and chit chat, and then they take us to the cat cages.

So these cats are hiding in these wooden boxes covered by burlap. They're nocturnal animals so they have to hide. They bring out the food which comes from a massive tub of writhing live eels which they throw to these cats who just snap them down their gullets as the eel twists and turns in the cat's mouth. They're also offering the cats dead crabs. Apparently, this is their sustenance and they give them the coffee beans once a day.

It felt surreal, yet annoying. It was amusing, but since I had this fever, I really just wanted to get back in the fucking car and go to the hotel. I didn't feel like dealing with this crazy third world bullshit. But the people who ran the cat shit coffee place had other plans ...

As we head back outside, the video camera is still obviously interested in filming me. They guide me out into the rain where the coffee plants are growing so I can give a testimonial about how great their kopi luwak is -- mind you, I have a fever, and they've now just pushed me into the driving rain to get free video footage of me saying how great their coffee is. They had not asked my permission to do this. But they are customers, so I oblige.

Then, they walk me over to these trays of the collected pieces of cat shit packed full of these coffee beans. It's swarming with flies. They make me kneel down in front of all this stinking coffee bean cat shit, look into the video camera, and say, "Coffee Luwak BAGUS!!" (Coffee Luwak is GOOOD!).

This would have been pretty funny, but I had a really uncomfortable fever and all this weird poor country bullshit has just gotten old to me. Twice a day in this place, I think, 'All you fucking people are totally INSANE.'

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