Few people are aware of Alamid coffee-- the world's rarest brew, made from civet cat droppings. Even fewer know that Alamid is sourced and processed in the Philippines. Before my trip to Alamid Cafe Xpress, I, myself, had preconceptions about what Alamid really is. Prior to visiting the cafe, I even made the mistake of posting in my Facebook page that I was about to taste coffee made from 'cat poop'. Apparently, civets aren't cats.
Over a steamy cup of Alamid inside a chilly cafe at Bonifacio High Street's ROX building, the enlightenment happened. The experience was definitely overwhelming for an Alamid virgin like myself. After a cup, I emerged from the cafe not only excited to cross out an item from my personal bucket list, but eager to share to other people this rarity we Filipinos must be proud of.
Here are a few of the most basic things you must know about Alamid coffee. Read on before you procure a precious cup.
Alamid is, indeed, one of the rarest and the most expensive coffees in the world. Paolo Reyes, Director of Systems and Operations of Bote Central Inc. and a walking coffee encyclopedia, confirms that. The urban legends talking about coffee priced at an exorbitant amount of at least P1,570 for 50 grams and P2,690 for 100 grams are true. Why the insanely high price? Primarily because of the very limited supply. “Our one year supply, which we harvest from November to May, wouldn't even fill a small truck! The beans are that limited,” Paolo tells me. “And outside those months, we can't force the civet cats to produce more. We just wait for another year,” he adds. According to him, the process of collecting the beans is also very laborious. An entire day spent at the forest grounds will only result in less than 5 kilos of droppings.
Yes. It is made from civet cat's droppings. I have no idea why would one person attempt to produce (or in this case, brew) something from animal poop, but the practice apparently started long ago. “They (the locals from the mountains) have been doing it ever since but they had no idea of its value,” Paolo relates.
These civet cats, whose diet consist of berries and insects, love munching on coffee cherries when in season. They have this extraordinary ability to preselect the ripest and most flavorful berries. They binge on the cherries, partially digest them, and then excrete them. The enzymes from the stomach of the civet are said to be responsible for the unique flavor the Alamid coffee has. The droppings, which the coffee farmers painstakingly search for amidst all the leaves and twigs of the forest grounds, are washed, dried, and sorted into different categories: Arabica, Liberica, and Excelsa. These beans will undergo a few more processes before they end up in a cup.
Civet cat is not a cat. It's more a mongoose than a feline. I just had to emphasize that so you wouldn't make the same mistake I did. A Facebook status or a tweet that reads 'is about to sip a coffee made from mongoose poop,' will be more truthful, albeit not any less weirder.
The droppings are not as bad as you've probably pictured it to be. They look like peanut brittle, don't they?
Bote Central Inc. discovered Alamid Coffee in the Philippines... and they have the 'Alamid' trademark registered to them.
Before Alamid's discovery in the Philippines, coffee connoisseurs usually turned to Indonesia for their Kopi Luwak, a brew that is a lot similar to Alamid. Upon their discovery, Bote Central Inc. never stopped rallying for recognition in the coffee map.
It is also good to report that Bote Central Inc. ensures that the forests in Batangas, Mindanao, Sagada, and Quezon, where the droppings are collected, remain protected. The civet cats remain free and uncaged.
Alamid is readily available at Alamid Cafe Xpress. Curious enough? For P295 a cup, you may now have a taste of the expertly prepared blend of Alamid coffee at Alamid Cafe Xpress. “Before, we were just suppliers. Now, we want to bring the product directly to the customers,” Paolo shares. The cafe located inside the R.O.X. Building can be found at the ground floor, past the wearables sections.
It tastes and smells differently from the regular coffees. If you are to pay almost double what you regularly spend for a cup, it should be worth it, right? So how does it actually smell and taste?
I'm no coffee connoisseur but I found differentiating an Alamid cup from a normal, friendly priced Siphon Coffee (P80), pretty easy.
The smell is distinctly savory-- the kind of smell you usually get from hearty viands, not coffees. There's none of the bold, burnt, and distinctly coffee aroma. It's subtle, and at times, sweet and chocolatey.
A sip would also confuse your taste buds. One fast sip will flush down so cleanly, it will not leave even the faintest aftertaste on your mouth. Another sip will tell you of how sweet, creamy and very subtly chocolatey, it is.
It works well with savory food. Strong coffees are usually taken after a complex meal or together with desserts. The Alamid coffee surprisingly works well along with equally savory food. For this, Alamid Cafe Xpress gives its customers quite a few options.
The best from the menu are the Aglio Olio Beef Tapa with Sundried Tomatoes Pasta (P240), Itag Sagada with Brocoli on Cheesy Yogurt Sauce Pasta (P240), and Honey Ham Panini (P215)-- all of which shine spotlight on prime and locally-sourced ingredients.
The benefits from drinking a cup of Alamid coffee, aren't any more than what you get from drinking a regular cup. Sorry. No superpowers. No added energy. It won't make you stay awake and hyper any longer.
The best way to appreciate the Alamid beans' rarity and uniqueness is to pick them yourself. Alamid Cafe Xpress distinguishes itself from any other coffee shop by offering both cafe and adventure.
Instead of the usual coffee sit-down coffee seminars, they offer adventure packages that will take you to Mt. Malaraya in Batangas. Here, you may visit the very site where the coffee is cultivated. If in season, you'll also get to find and pick the beans by yourself.
The Explorer Package (P2,500 pax) is inclusive of transportation, packed lunch, and unlimited serving of mountain style coffee. This will allow you to explore the coffee trail for an entire day.
The more advanced Adventurer Package (price available upon inquiry) features a fully-customized route that will allow you to trek and hike through peaks and river trails. There's also buffet lunch prepared by a chef, unlimited local coffee, and a free cup of Alamid coffee. An option for an overnight camping trip is also available.
Spending that much for a cup of exotic coffee is arguable. Do I see myself drinking a cup of Alamid everyday? Most definitely not, unless, I suddenly find myself suddenly an heir to the throne of an unknown country. Until then, I'd just relish the fact that I've tasted a cup of coffee made from mongoose poop.