OPINION COLUMNS

Mean cows, bears and civet coffee

By Gerre Joiner | Published Saturday, July 13, 2013

{{{*}}}Interesting topics of conversation today were:

  • Mean cows and close calls. Almost everyone had a story of a mean cow that caused problems on the place and was sold right after the owner’s well-being was threatened. Interesting fact: The meanest cow almost always drops the best calf.
  • Do any of the Wise County “old-timers” remember the bear that was sighted several years ago? Almost every attempt to report the sighting was met with skepticism. Only after the bear was killed did the majority of Wise County residents believe that the bear stories were true.

But the most interesting topic of this particular day centered on civet coffee.

Gerre Joiner

Gerre Joiner

I asked the guys what they would say if I told them there was a beverage called “civet coffee” that is produced when a civet cat eats the coffee beans and then excretes them. Workers then harvest the beans (sift through the droppings) and prepare them for market ($500/pound).

Some of the men had heard of this product, though nobody knew what to call it. Others were skeptical until I showed them pictures (on the “internets”) of the cat and the droppings.

  • One might ask, “How does the cat’s digestive system change the bean?” Answer: Enzymes in the cat’s digestive tract seep into the beans and make them softer and (so they say) tastier. One review says that there is no after-taste with this coffee.
  • One might ask, “How do the tree-huggers feel about the practice of harvesting civet coffee beans?” Answer: They (the huggers) are concerned that the cats are treated badly (isolation, poor diet, small cages, and a high mortality rate).
  • One might ask, “How did the conversation go when two Sumatran men found coffee beans in the droppings of a cat (and why were they sifting through them in the first place?) and one of them said, ‘I wonder what these would taste like if we brewed them for breakfast?’”

Observation:

    • Most cats are pretty independent. They don’t have owners. They have servants. Some cats actually don’t like humans.
    • Most cats actually don’t like beans. I speculate that the civet holds his/her nose, eats the bean, waits for nature to take its course and then grins at the prospect of what happens next. One might also ask:

“Can a cat hold his/her nose?”

  • Who is most amused here – the cat? the coffee drinker with expensive taste? or the guy who sold the stuff for $500 a pound?

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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