What is The World's Most Expensive Coffee?
Lining up for Kopi Luwak
When my daughter Kat was in Indonesia, she decided to try its famous kopi luwak, which some call “cat poop coffee.” It is the most expensive coffee in the world, ranging in cost from US$100 to $300 pound. Well, you only live once. And, she learned, you can be very disappointed many times over. This was one of those times.
It turns out, kopi luwak has been largely compromised. The quality of the bean lies in the fact that the civet cat lives in the wild, and instinctively chooses the most delicious berries. Its digestive system begins a process of fermentation where Protease enzymes enter the beans, peptides are shortened and amino acids are set free, resulting in the coffee’s wonderful aroma. The taste – if it is genuine – is penultimately delicious. Kopi luwak lost its fascinating quality when people began to capture civets, put them in cages and feed them any type of berry with no consideration of the berry’s quality.
This is why Barako Sibet re-imaged what some call “cat poop coffee” and went back to getting the real deal in order again, exclusively in the Philippines. Christopher S. Gonzaga of Crisley’s Barako Haus told me a fascinating story – that civet cats are indigenous to the Philippines. I must have been the only person in the country to know that, as this cat is shown on every P20 bill.
However, it is an endangered species. According to Gonzaga, these cats prevail in several mountains. In Mt. Pulag and Mt. Sagada they feast on Arabica beans. In Mt. Bukidnon, Mt. Apo and the mountains of Sariayaya they eat robusta beans. But it is only in Mt. Malarayat in Lipa, Batangas, where the civets feast on the biggest coffee bean of all, the Liberica bean, otherwise known as barako.
The Barako Sibet is the least plentiful of all sibet (the Filipino way of spelling civet) coffees, yet Gonzaga makes it available in Barako Haus, located in Unit 102 Presidents Arcade, President’s Avenue, BF Homes, Paranaque. He rebranded the coffee Barako Sibet so it would not be affiliated with the errors that were made with kopi luwak. And it is only here in Paranaque where it’s affordable. The cheapest coffee is P88, while others cost up to P130. So if you want the five star version at people’s prices, go here. It’s exactly the same, Gonzaga said.
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500 Liberica Trees
The civet cat, as earlier stated, is an endangered species. In Mt. Malarayat, a government reserve, Gonzalga made a deal with farmers who worked in the area. He planted 500 Liberica trees which attracted the civet cats and where they feasted on the beans (barako is the largest coffee bean in the world).
He paid the farmers to do the work, provided them with food to sustain them until harvest time, and gave them money for medicine when they were ill. The trees contributed to the environmental wellness of the mountain, and the civet cats, most of all, run wild and free. However, because of the liberica trees they stay near the area, and their stool (yes, it is fondly called cat poop coffee to many) is usually found in the same areas, most likely due to this nocturnal animal’s natural sense of territorialism.
High End Coffee
The cat poop is collected by farmers and placed on banana leaves. It goes through a sorting process in a large sifter where it is flattened, shook, and cleaned with water. Cat poop in the wild is very different in quality from that of caged civets – even the portion that is separated from the bean is far healthier. After the beans are cleaned, they are let out in the sun to dry. The dried beans are then scrubbed with a block of wood, and green beans are separated from the skin and sorted by hand.
Gonzaga sells his coffee (double shots) to high end places such as Maxim’s Resort World, Shangri-la Mactan, Shangri-la Boracay, Pico de Loro, Pasalubong centers in Tagaytay and Baguio, and International Airports at NAIA 3, Mactan International Airport, and Kalibo International Airport.
Carabao Cheese Sandwich
Having Coffee the Traditional Filipino Way
But Barako Sibet coffee house embodies everything that Gonzaga and his partners, Al and Menchie Serrano, stand for. It is all about having coffee in the traditional Filipino way. You can have a delicious sunflower liberico frappapino (yes, pino) with a delicious carabao cheese sandwich served in pan de gante, which is actually a huge sized pan de sal. It is a delightful twist to something native to us, with the right dash of sophistication.
My husband truly loved his pan de tapa sandwich. I tried their flat top and chocnut cookie. I am the queen of cookies and you have to know I’ve eaten them all. But this one had a lovely smell that I mistook for cinnamon. Actually, it was sibet coffee that was added to this delicious cookie. I then noted chocolate notes midway, imagining the most high-end chocolate. Instead, it was chocnut. I guess when you add barako sibet to anything, the bar is raised very high.
Pan de Tapa Sandwich
On the Floor
At Barako house there is a banig section which is very cozy. Who says only the Japanese can sit on the floor? Also, you can purchase items from all over the Philippines in this one place. There is organic puto bumbong, authentic bikol express in the barrel, bikol express pork, santol, delicacies from Amiras, and so much more. They are planning to create a large pan de burger as well.
You can purchase barako nuts, dayang at bawang ng tinapa, sinaing at tuliang, uraro, lengua, pulvoron ampalaya sugar free, dark chocolate coated pulveron with pinipig sugar free, and assorted pulovoron for sugar purists.
A Cool Twist to Nationalism
Gonzaga says his nationalistic side is what drove him to bring all delicacies from the Philippines together under one roof with his delicious barako sibet at affordable prices, here in the south. But there’s a cool twist to it. You know the furniture is Pinoy, for example, but it’s Filipino modern. And the banig area with adorable bench tables do seem just a tad Japanese. The ASEAN, after all, forged special economic ties this year. It is a good time for us to show them that we’ve evolved from the good old days, preserved the best of it, upscaled it, and made it modern and sophisticated. Now they will know that’s what we’ve got, and we’re worth every bit of it and more.