Arts & Leisure

Strange brew

Posted on March 03, 2011

Also known in Malaysian as kopi luwak, civet coffee is not only the most expensive coffee in the world but is also the most limitedly produced -- not surprising considering the process it goes through.

Civet coffee is made from coffee berries that have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (and other related civets) which then pass through its digestive tract.

These nocturnal animals are wild creatures inhabiting forests -- they are not domesticated animals -- thus it takes a careful search of the forest floor to find the excrement. The beans are then gathered, thoroughly washed, sun-dried and lightly roasted.

Overseas, the price per kilo can cost at least $600, and the price per cup can go up to $100. Its distinction is in its aroma and taste -- it is much less bitter compared to other coffee.

Alamid Cafe Xpress -- which opened at the Recreational Outdoor Xchange (R.O.X.) in Bonifacio High Street, Taguig City -- is, as its name suggests, narrowly focused on this rarity.

Locally the civet cat is called alamid or musang. "There is no difference between civet cat coffee and alamid coffee... Civet coffee is also the generic name and ‘alamid coffee’ is the brand name for Bote Central," Rachelle P. Red, director, marketing and customer relations of Bote Central, told BusinessWorld.

She added: "We decided to process alamid coffee because we saw the potential it could bring to us and the Philippines. Our primary goal is to establish a niche for it in the Philippines and the world."

The beans used at the Alamid Cafe Xpress hail from Mt. Malarayat in Lipa, Batangas; Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato; the Cordillera area; and Quezon province. The quality beans are manually selected and precision roasted.

"Although Alamid Cafe Xpress sells alamid coffee at a more reasonable price, the quality and the taste proves that it is the same civet coffee that coffee connoisseurs worldwide are buzzing about," said Ms. Red.

A cup of alamid coffee at Alamid Cafe Xpress costs P295, though the shop also serves other coffee varieties which range in price from P75 to P125 per cup. It also sells roasted alamid coffee for P1,570 per 50g and P2,690/100g; 18 Days (a coffee blend using arabica, liberica, exelsa and robusta beans sourced from around the country) at P125 to P250/250g); and Ininstant (robusta beans) for P35/50g. Roasting machines are also available upon request.

Aside from coffee, the cafe also serves a variety of cold drinks, sandwiches, panini and salads.

Alamid Cafe Xpress owners Basil and Vie Reyes got into the coffee business due to vinegar. While they were working with a community of vinegar collectors, they found out that the same habitat where the palm tree where Arengga vinegar comes from is also the home of alamid and they switched their focus to coffee production. Their endeavor landed them in local newspapers and international news outlets like National Geographic, the BBC and the New York Times, among others.

Through the years, the couple has worked with communities of coffee farmers -- it has been their advocacy to be committed to a fair trade environment where coffee farmers benefit from their own products. They have installed community roasting facilities in 14 sites throughout the Philippines from Sagada to Jolo, three of which have been funded by the German Development Service.

According to Ms. Red, for 2011, "we would like Alamid to be known to our neighboring ASEAN countries... In fact, we are already being invited by Korea, Thailand and Singapore to showcase alamid coffee. We already do exports but nothing exclusive at the moment."

For details call 801-2682 or 836-0216. -- Camille Erika R. Sarte