So there I was, heavy-lidded and paying divided attention to the various and sundry headlines crammed onto my rss feed. I’d stared at them for a number of minutes without feeling sufficiently motivated to undo my slouching torpor, until I finally bit on “Expensive coffee from crap.” Not the greatest headline, but what the hey.
The story is about a rare kind of coffee from Indonesia named kopi iuwak, which apparently goes for $30/cup in some fancy Hong Kong hotels. “The secret to its reportedly fine flavor is that the beans are collected, swallowed, and crapped back out by wild civets, small, arboreal mammals that are currently endangered.”
Okay, that was bent enough to bother reading, right?
But hold on to your bowels, there’s more.
Turns out there’s a guy out there who’s written a book about this and other food curiosities, called “In Bad Taste?: The Science and Adventures Behind Food Delicacies.” It also turns out that he went all the way to Indonesia’s Sumatran rain forest to collect civet droppings laced with coffee beans, then dragged them all the way back to his lab in Canada.
According to the LA Times,
Like a forensic scientist reading a bullet’s markings, Marcone stares at kopi luwak under an electron microscope, searching for striations that tell him that a civet excreted it. His studies found that kopi luwak drinkers need to be careful to avoid being duped.
Yes, not only does our food scientist travel 9,800 miles to collect civet shit in a jungle, he then becomes CSI Kopi Iuwak, ferreting out the the genuine joe–“the smell of moist earth after a rainfall, with hints of vanilla, that teases the palate for hours after the cup is empty”–from the bogus beans.
And if that isn’t remarkable enough, this professor, Massimo Marcone, has a name that rung a bell with me. Food science professor … University of Guelph … he’s not the same one who …
He’s the same Massimo Marcone I made such leering fun of a mere month ago for analyzing donuts–now here he is, galloping across the globe with packets of civet shit, and training the finest Canadian microscopes on said feces to help rid the world of counterfeit crap coffee.
Now that I’ve recovered from this massive shock wave of coincidence, it occurs to me that I should have been a food scientist. How could I have missed this vocation? Why didn’t my guidance counselor tell me? Alas, I am but a humble communicator, destined to stand in awe of scientific titans like professor Marcone, the Indiana Jones of Food Science.
And I am but a 30-foot digestive tract wracked with remorse. Last month I was telling him he might win an IgNobel Award for spurious donut research.
Not IgNobel, Massi. Nobel. No-freakin-bel. Cause dude, you are the shit.