The Most Expensive Coffee in the World

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Nov 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Conrad Bali Nusa Dua
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Erica Writes: We started the day early with a 5:50am wake-up call in anticipation of our Bali Bike-Baik Tour that Kristen had arranged for us the day before.  We had heard something about a downhill volcano bike ride from an Aussie couple we met at the Rock Bar a few nights prior and booked what sounded like a similar adventure.  We were picked up at 6:30am sharp, Conrad breakfast box in hand.  It was a long, roundabout van ride to the start of the tour, as we picked up an Aussie family of four in Kuta and a solo traveler from Colorado in Ubud.
Our first stop was at a local coffee plantation where they showed us how they harvest the cherries from their trees, how they process the beans, and most interestingly their local "cats" (Asian Palm Civets) in cages.  Why do they keep these “cats” in cages, you may ask?  Well…these creatures are known to eat only the “best” cherries from the trees and then promptly evacuate these cherries through their intestinal tract.  Yes…they poop the best and most expensive coffee in the world called Kopi Luwak.  Naturally, having been in the coffee biz, we had to try this poop coffee at a whopping $3.00 a cup.  And am I better off having tried it?  Um…I'm not so sure I’m buying into the hype.  The other coffee we tried there was bad and the poop coffee was a small step above at just OK.  Well, I have been known to live by the rule that you have to try everything at least once!

After our Kopi Luwak, they arranged for us to have breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the Gunung Batur volcano and Lake Danau Batur  and then drove us to a location nearby to pickup our bikes and start riding. 

It was a lovely tour through many old villages and we were able to see how rice fields were planted and harvested.  Our guide did a great job explaining the process, not to mention a great job giving us the history of Balinese culture and rituals.  The people in the villages were very friendly as we rode by, offering hellos and an occasional high five.  We rode to an elementary school where we were met by dozens of curious 11 year olds and passed many homes readying themselves for Nyepi, the Hindu New Year celebration by constructing large “Ogha-Ogha” to ward off the evil spirits.  They were such elaborately constructed floats, as I liked to call them, that it took most of them at least a month to complete.  A good ways into the 30 km bike ride, our guide warned us that there were a few uphill’s to get through before the end as we protested that he promised us an all downhill ride.  The hills weren’t all bad and it was quite humorous watching several people fumble with their malfunctioning gears and get halfway up before giving up and walking the bike the rest of the way.  In the end, we were hot, tired, sunburned and sufficiently happy with all we had experienced on our bikes.  The icing on the cake was when they picked us up at the end in the air-con van with cold, wet towels and drove us to the home of the Bali Bike Tour owner for a home cooked meal by his wife.  I am still talking about the fact that it was the best Balinese meal I have ever had.  We got to gorge ourselves on succulent dishes like sate lilit, omak goreng, nasi goreng, ayam betutu,and bebek betutu, to name a few.  We took the long, out of the way road home and got to the Conrad just in time for Cocktail Hour at 5pm.

We showered up and crammed as many free cocktails in us as possible, happily buzzed and ready for our first, and only, expensive dinner at the Conrad.  They put on a nice show with local dancers as I turned cheap, nickel and diming the menu, trying to talk John into ordering the least expensive item on the list.  As Kristen reminded me, we were staying for free so what was the harm in actually spending a little bit of money on dinner for once.  She had a point and I conceded, letting my stress and panic of running out of money in the first month melt away, as I enjoyed the last enchanted evening at the Conrad. 

We talked about swimming over to our new friends’ plush honeymoon suite with our bottle of Moonshine, as they had been tempting us to do for days now, but the day’s activities had taken hold of our energy level and we all found our heads on our pillows in two seconds.

John’s Note on Kopi Luwak: Having owned a café where we specialized in truly great coffee, I had several customers ask about that 'coffee made from cat poop”.  Having truly cupped some of the best coffee in the world at the Stumptown Roastery, including the legendary $130/lb Panama Hacienda La Esmerelda Gesha, I can now fully report that the Kopi Luwak has nothing to do with good coffee.  I’m not one to be impressed by $130/lb but having owned a coffee shop I’ve learned that good coffee starts at the source and is most dependent on farmers who pick only ripe cherries and process them with care, a roaster who knows what they are doing, and a barista that only uses beans a week from roast and grinds the coffee just before perfect preparation.  The only thing that makes Kopi Luwak taste slightly better than the bad coffee here in Bali is the fact that they only give ripe cherries to the Civets (a distinction the Civets would make on their own in the wild).  This simple act is enough to improve the coffee quality, without the unnecessary trip through the intestinal system of a large rodent!  From the time coffee is at its peak ripeness as a cherry on the coffee tree, all we can do is try not to ruin it and only the most passionate of farmers and roasters are capable of doing that, then it’s on you (or your barista) to do the rest.
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