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February 6, 2008 > Expensive coffee

Expensive coffee

BALTIMORE (AP), Feb 02 _ It's the world's most expensive coffee bean. Kopi Luwak coffee sells for as much as $200 a pounds.

Only 1,000 pounds anually are produced worldwide. The beans used to make it are ingested as cherries by the palm civet, a Southeast Asian cat, and harvested from the critter's feces.

Incredibly, the civet's stomach enzymes eliminate the coffee's bitter aftertaste.

Thomas and Amy Rhodes are owners of Zeke's Coffee in Lauraville. They wanted to give their friends and customers the chance to try the delicacy. Zeke's recently hosted the first of its 2008 twice-monthly exotic coffee tastings at the Mill Valley Farmers' Market in Baltimore.

Future tastings will feature Jamaican Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona coffee. In the spring, there will be a daylong Ethiopian coffee-making ceremony. But the curiosity factor surrounding Kopi Luwak will be hard to beat.

A hundred people bought $10 tickets, which bought an 8-ounce serving and which sold out a few days before the event. The Rhodeses saved 20 servings of their special brew for walk-ins at the farmers' market. Those were gone within an hour after the 9 a.m. opening.

The journey to the tasting was not an easy one. Thomas Rhodes started looking for beans online in October. He e-mailed an inquiry to animalcoffee.com, which, according to the Web site, sells Kopi Luwak to the Emmy Awards for celebrity gifts, Warner Brothers movie studios and the royal family of Kuwait.

It took some persuasion by Rhodes, 40, before the salesman would allow him to buy beans that he would roast himself at his roastery and retail shop, which supplies coffee to about 30 local businesses.

He paid $300 for 2 pounds unprocessed (``right out of the rear end''), then realized he didn't know what to do with it. ``We kept it to show people what it looks like,'' said Amy Rhodes, 35. ``We're just gonna keep it sealed up. It'll be our souvenir.''

The couple paid $600 for another 3 pounds of the processed beans. They still were not roasted, but this batch was dried, pounded and winnowed.

For the event, Zeke's staff gave out buttons showing a cat's paw reaching for toilet paper. And for $5, Amy Rhodes snapped photos of tasters holding their white paper coffee cups and a plastic-encased sample of civet feces, which looks like peanut brittle.

The tasters seemed to enjoy the coffee. Many who usualy take cream and sugar were able to drink it black. There was agreement that the Kopi Luwak had no bitter aftertaste; otherwise made it distinctive was up for debate. Some said it was sweet. Other descriptions included ``smooth,'' ``earthy'' and ``a little nutty.'' Perhaps the most disturbing was ``gamy.''

``I was intrigued by the idea,'' said Bob Nugent, 55, who drove from Edgewood for the occasion. ``I absolutely had to come.''

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On the Net:

Zeke's: http://www.zekescoffee.com

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Information from: The (Baltimore) Sun,
http://www.baltimoresun.com

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