A man on a journey for an exotic cup of coffee. An update of an old story
|My search for an exotic cup of coffee led me to a small establishment in the Adirondack Mountains, the Civet Drop Café. Once at the counter, I relay my dilemma.
"I dislike flavored coffee and conventional brews bore me. My quest brings me here, hoping for an exceptional concoction. If you fail me, I'll return home in defeat."
" Hello sir. My name is Kopi. I've adapted a recipe from my native Philippines that should please you ... if you are brave enough."
"Oh, and what would that be?"
"I call it SideHill Wampus Civet which sells for $100 a pot."
"You've got to be kidding."
"That's what I thought. Forget the pretense and stick to your regular brew. I have real customers needing attention." She turns to the next person in line, ignoring me.
"Wait, I'll take a pot and be quick about it."
She looks back to make sure I'm serious.
"In that case, follow me. I have a table reserved for special clients."
She seats me at a round Scandinavian Table, complete with lace tablecloth and fancy candles and excuses herself to brew my beverage.
After an eternity, (I'm not a patient man), she emerges, followed by an entourage. The first in line places a priceless saucer before me, the next follows with a doily, on which the next places a delicate teacup followed by a linen napkin.
"For the price I'm paying, I think I deserve a bigger cup."
"Patience, my dear." She snaps her fingers and the last in line places a porcelain coffee pot before me.
"What about cream and sugar?"
"Sacrilege, I won't allow you to contaminate my consummate potion with such poisons. Now, it is time to savor the experience."
I smell strong coffee mixed with an exotic ingredient I can't place. She pours a dribble into my cup. Like a wine connoisseur, I swirl it around, checking the color and texture.
Meanwhile, a small crowd has gathered, waiting for me to take my first sip. In a flourish, I lift that ornamental goblet to my lips and let the sweet incense flow over my expectant taste buds. Kopi visibly relaxes as she sees a wave of pleasure wash over my being. Dismissing the staff, she fills my cup and produces one of her own to join me.
I'm perturbed at having to share my expensive brew, but settle down when she offers to tell me the secret of this amazing gift from the gods.
"Deep in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains lives a special mammal about the size of a house cat," she begins, as I sip my brew.
"The locals call it a Sidehill Wampus Cat. A unique mammal, with the legs on one side shorter than the legs on the other. This allows it to stand upright on the steep slope while running around the mountain. The handicap is that it can only run in one direction, otherwise it will tip over. There are two species: the Eastern Wampus and the Western Wampus. It is easy to tell them apart since the name is determined by the direction they run."
"You're kidding me, right?"
"No. Their scientific name is Civet, a distant relative of your common house cat. Over the years, this cat has developed a specialized diet found in one place: near the top of Mount Marci, where a unique coffee plant grows that is impervious to the brutal Adirondack winters. Each spring it sprouts scarlet blossoms that transform into a fragrant fruit: coffee beans."
She interrupts the narrative to fill my now empty cup.
"The beans ripen in late spring, the same time the Civets wake from their winter's hibernation. Hungry as the Coliseum lions of old, they fill their little tummies with the ripe fruit. After they gorge themselves, they lie down to rest and let that delicacy digest to replenish the energy lost over the winter."
By now, I'm on my third cup. She lowers her voice and looks around, making sure she isn't overheard - I guess. I must lean forward to hear her finish telling the origins of this perfect cup of coffee.
"Well, they lie there while nature does its work. Once the beans are digested, the varmints go to their special spot and - you know."
"What?" What do they do?"
"They poop," she says as her face turns red.
Looking at my now empty third cup, my stomach turns queasy.
"When they finish, they take off running around the mountain, allowing the natives to sneak in and collect the - droppings - and take them back to their huts. They spread the droppings to dry in the springtime heat and then roast the beans to perfection.
Packaged in airtight containers, they are shipped to select cafes where we grind them fresh for our enlightened patrons."
I search her face in vain for the hint of a smile that says she is kidding. She is serious. I just spent $100 for a cup of liquid cat droppings. My face must have turned a slight shade of green because she says, "The men's room is around the corner, if you need it."
I want desperately to flee to that blessed sanctuary and heave a bountiful oblation into the worthy urinal, but her look upsets me. I force the bile out of my throat and back to my stomach.
I produce my wallet. She looks amused as I pull out a $100 bill and place it on the table. The amused look turns to sheer joy as I take out another one, smile, and say, "I'll take a refill, if you please."