Sure, many of us start every day with a nice, hot cup of drip coffee or maybe an espresso drink. But since Thursday, September 29 is National Coffee Day, perhaps it’s time for something special or unusual. Here are five coffee choices that vary from a very weird to only a little off the beaten path.
Unusual Coffee #1: Kopi Luwak.
Of course, leading off with the world-famous (or infamous) Kopi Luwak, a.k.a. civet poop coffee.
Why is it unusual? Well, the Asian Palm Civet eats coffee in its fruit form (coffee is actually a drupe, and the so-called “bean” is simply the fruit’s seed). Then the civet, a sort of mongoose-like creature, will poop the “coffee bean” out, its digestive process having stripped the coffee of its fruit. The seeds are then gathered, cleaned, and processed like picked coffee. The two general theories are: (1) the animal instinctively selects the best fruit, so Kopi Luwak will be especially delicious, and/or (2) something in the civet’s digestive juices change the flavor profile of the coffee, making it more desirable in some way.
Why should you try it? Well… maybe you shouldn’t. Of all the various overhyped, overpriced, and ultimately disappointing coffees, Kopi Luwak is the champ. Even if you like it fine, or a lot (which most don’t), it’s exorbitantly expensive. But if you try it, you can say you tried it, and explain what it is. It’s a good story, and the legend surrounding what most call “cat poop coffee” is a fun one to discuss. Since you probably don’t want to spend $65 or $75 per quarter pound, maybe find some friends to go in on a small amount together, or find a shop that might carry the stuff (it’s rare, but as a stunt it happens), or a roaster that’s equally curious (my experience with the stuff was due to the good graces of the folks at Green Star Coffee, in Goleta).
Unusual Coffee #2: Sea Salt Coffee.
Popular in Taiwan, becoming more common in the U.S. due to the efforts of one store.
Why is it unusual? At 85C Bakery and Cafe, sea salt whipped foam is added on top of your coffee drink.
Why should you try it? It reportedly enhances the coffee’s natural sweetness, plus 85C says it uses high-quality beans in any case, so a customer is enhancing something that’s already good, not trying to make something that’s poor into something palatable. There are locations sprinkled throughout Southern California; the Irvine location is notably successful.
Unusual Coffee #3: Middle-Eastern coffee
Syrupy, strong, and in a small cup, this is a treat that’s different than your everyday cuppa joe.
Why is it unusual? Medium-roasted beans are ground to a powdery fineness, finer than espresso grind even, and boiled directly in special vessels, such as an “Ibrik.” Some methods require a double or triple boil. The process has several variations, but usually is characterized by putting sugar and/or various spices into the mixture. It’s typically served hot, in small demitasses, and almost always with something very sweet.
Why should you try it? It’s delicious and carries a nice caffeine boost. The flavor profile is unlike U.S. coffee–hints of pine or tar and a gritty mouth feel–but fans of U.S. specialty coffee should at least admire the experience, and may even love it. A great place for locals to try a version of Middle Eastern coffee is Zaytoon.
Unusual Coffee #4: Cold Brew Coffee
Why is it unusual? For a quick brew, we know to grind coffee and expose it in some fashion to hot water. But it turns out that you can get delicious — and far less acidic — coffee from a long, slow brew in cooler water.
Why should you try it? Because it’s easy to make, and some people don’t react well to hot-brewed coffee’s acidity. This article from Bon Appetit recommends 1/2 pound medium ground coffee paired with 9 cups of room-temp water, gentle agitation, 12-16 hours of steeping, then straining. I found that methodology a great place to start. Or if you have some scratch to spare, there are various cold-brew devices on the market (such as the Toddy, for less than $40, which can be found at the Cost Plus at 610 State Street).
Unusual Coffee #5: Cowboy Coffee
Do it like they did in the old west, man.
Why is it unusual? Cowboy coffee can be thought of as a less-refined version of Middle-Eastern coffee. Just put ground beans into boiling water on a pot over the campfire, let it steep, then pour it from the pot directly into your cup, being careful not to pour and grinds as you do so.
Why should you try it? It’s a primal experience, just you, nature, and the coffee–and it can be a communal experience as well if you involve a few friends. And isn’t it kind of epic to be able to make a decent cup of coffee without all the frou-frou stuff?