RMB 268 Buys You a Cup of Shit Coffee in SLT Soho ... But it's Great
Cat shit coffee? Yep. Yuck.
It is indeed a thing, and there's a new branch of the Kafelaku Cafe chain slinging cups of the expensive (and arguably inhumane) stuff at Sanlitun Soho. It's Chinese name pulls no punches: it's called 猫屎咖啡 (māoshǐ kāfēi) – cat shit coffee.
Worse still: it's open around the corner from the Smellme Pet Lifestyle Centre, in a move that might showcase the owners' sense of humor (or, more likely their total obliviousness/poor luck in real estate opportunities or scarier yet, they've teamed up and have a secret tunnel to feed the specimens through straight from the source).
If you have a queasy stomach, have no idea what kopi luwak is, or just tend to prefer your foods not to have previously passed through an animal before you ingest them, be sure not to read on (but if that's the case, I'm not sure why you even clicked on the link for this blog at all).
Kopi luwak Indonesian coffee is made from beans fed to, and then excreted from, local feline-esque creatures called luwak, or civet cat. For some reason this process makes the beans more, not less, valuable. A National Geographic excerpt says there's "something about the natural fermentation that occurs in the civet's stomach seems to make the difference." The beans are then collected and thoroughly washed, we hope. How many species of animal they had to force feed coffee beans to before settling on the luwak is open to debate.
Just how expensive does this shitty beverage cost? Kafelaku sells cups of its priciest kopi luwak coffee at RMB 268 each. Yes, you read that right. If that's too rich for your blood, there are other options: a blended version for RMB 138, a kopi luwak cappuccino for RMB 128, or a kopi luwak coffee mocha, RMB 128 as well.
We'd be ashamed to call ourselves food and beverage editors without actually seeing what all the fuss was about, so on a windy weekday we dutifully strolled over to the café after lunch peak.
The only waitress there told us that they often sell “10 cups of kopiluwak coffee every day," a figure we were only slightly incredulous about but were happy to help pitch towards.
They do have other food on offer and if you get there fast you might still be able to nab one of the first cakes/pies/quiches/macaroons that the store ever stocked, that's because they apparently never made any new ones and everything is slowly decaying in the glass cases, like a high school science experiment. Thank god it's difficult for coffee to rot.
Let’s get to the point, what does civet shit coffee taste like? After a 10-minute wait, the drip coffee was served to us alongside milk, additional hot water, and a glass of ice water. The verdict? It was surprisingly delicious; bitter without being too acidic and rich in fruity, smokey, and meaty aromas, not unlike the initial waft from a burger before your first juicy bite. It was also so strong that my fingers began to tingle and I felt more awake than I had in weeks.
All in all, it was the slap to the face that we'd always looked for in a cup of coffee, and it will be difficult for us to go back to our sad office equivalent, but we'll somehow manage given that it's an entire 268 kuai cheaper.
If civet shit is not your thing, their are also normal coffees and teas with similar prices that you might find at Starbucks (RMB 22-37). For comparison purposes we ordered an Americano, which tasted like watered-down and weak when sipped after the thick and soupy civet rendition.
So, was it worth it? We were happily surprised with the quality of the coffee, but for RMB 268 a cup it might be best to save up your pennies for a trip to Indonesia to try it at its source. Given the state of the food and very few people who visited during our experiment, we expect the café itself to expire imminently (despite the "founded in 1896" notice branded onto everything) and return to the third-tier city from whence it came.
If you're truly desperate to try a cup and don't want to have to go all the way to Indonesia to do so, then it might be easiest to apply to Kafelaku and start on your new shitty career path.
Images: Kyle Mullin, Tracy Wang, blogspot.com