– Waiter, the bill, please!
– Excuse me, sir, but I would recommend you have another cognac before you see it.
We all have had a case when we wanted to cry once seeing the bill in a restaurant. Sometimes it means you have been overcharged – the waiter looked up, then multiplied what he had thought up by one and a half, he scratched his head, told himself he was being too modest, multiplied the number by two in the name of justice, and then brought you the bill. But in other cases, it is possible you just did not pay enough attention to what you were ordering. There are in fact food and drinks that are expensive from the get-go. It could be because of the way they are prepared or because of their exotic ingredients, but they are not for everyone.
In our new rubric we will introduce you to some of these food and drinks, to help you out with the menu in a restaurant next time.
We start with the beverage that makes it possible to open our eyes in the morning – coffee. Some people continue to refuel with more cups of it throughout the day, but, believe me, there is a coffee that you will not be able to afford, unless Bill Gates is a distant uncle of yours. I am talking about the Indonesian Kopi Luwak, a cup of which in Paris, London or Moscow costs over 100 euros. You might ask what is so special about it. If you are not squeamish, I will tell you. Kopi Luwak comes from the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, Bali, and Sulawesi. But it is the production itself that makes it so expensive, and not the transportation costs. On the islands live exotic Asian mammals called civets (Asian Palm Civet). The locals once considered them pests and tried to exterminate them, but after they saw the benefits, they began to treat them with special reverence. The civet feeds on small rodents, insects and fruits, such as the fruits of the coffee tree (the coffee cherries). And now for the interesting part. When the civet swallows the cherries, the gastric juices of the mammal cannot break them down, but passing through the stomach the cherries partially ferment, after which they are evacuated with the faeces. The local Indonesians, now with a newly discovered profession, come in and pick up the civets’ excrements, they search them for the “good cherries”, they wash them, and they dry them out. Then they bake them and the “golden coffee” is on its way to the traders in Japan, South Korea, the US and some countries in Western Europe.
Due to the specificity of the origin of Kopi Luwak, the world’s annual production is only 240-270 kg – hence its high price. If you think you have just gotten a great idea for an unfilled market niche, do not get so enthusiastic just yet. The Indonesian producers have thought long before you did, to put the civets in cages and feed them purposefully with the coffee fruit. Business is business, right? But the animals suffer, trapped in tight spaces, separated from their own, they begin to lose their fur. Deprived of their freedom, many of them die, which in recent years has led to campaigns in their defense by foundations and environmentalists. As an alternative, many companies in the US and Vietnam are trying to offer artificially created imitations of the coffee, but their taste qualities are far from those of the original. Kopi Luwak is naturally sweet and does not need any additional sugar or milk. It is not bitter and is devoid of any acidity, which makes it perfect for people with a sensitive stomach. It has a light chocolate flavor and tobacco aroma.
So, next time, when you go out for a coffee, pay attention to the offers on the menu. This is a warning especially to you, gentlemen, because Kopi Luwak is available in some places in Bulgaria as well. Be careful what the lady you are having coffee with is ordering. It might turn out it would have been cheaper to take her to “Chef’s”. And you, ladies, might want to find a partner who ranks closer to Jeff Bezos, who, by the way, just got divorced last year.