Rick Stein’s Christmas Odyssey is currently airing on BBC2. This minute. Right now. I very much enjoy Rick’s programmes, though somehow I managed to miss the entire Eastern Odyssey series earlier this year. The Radio Times write-up suggests that tonight’s offering is largely a recap of the best moments in the series with some Christmas voice-over by the man himself. That may well be so, but Rick is always entertaining, and besides, it’s all new to me.
My point? No, I haven’t gone all Ronnie Corbett, though I do admit to a little digression thus far. My point is that anyone reading this may well consider what I am about to say as old news. I’m not even sure if the part of the show to which I refer even appeared in the original series.
To the point: Civet coffee – or Kopi Luwak to you and me. There, I finally cut to the chase.
For anyone not aware, civet coffee basically consists of coffee beans, often type and quality unknown, that have been ingested and passed by the cat-like, and rather beautiful, civet – a native of numerous exotic Asian locations, most specifically Bali in the case of Rick Stein’s piece. The gastric juices of the civet are said to alter the features of the coffee in some way. That may or may not be true. What is certain is that the coffee costs a lot and depending on the origin may even be Robusta in some cases.
The point of my waffle is not however the origin and merit of civet coffee, it is what Rick said.
A blind cupping involving cafetiere brewed coffee was held on the programme by what appeared to be a gaggle of chefs including Rick’s two sons – both of whom failed to identify the Kopi Luwak amongst a Kenyan AA, a Brazilian and a Costa Rican. They all managed to spot the fruity Kenyan which was first up, then there was some speculation over which coffee was the Brazilian. All except the two already mentioned spotted the civet coffee, which was impressive for Rick given his previous somewhat hilariously failed record in blind tastings involving turkey and other meats.
In the end Rick stated that civet coffee is the finest known to mankind and certainly the most expensive. Really? I wonder where the researchers of tv cookery programmes obtain their facts. They could be forgiven for the assertion over cost as prices change and unless they were aware of the Cup of Excellence and Panama Geisha Esmeralda beans, the Kopi Luwak could still be considered the most expensive coffee ever. Perhaps it still is when sold in small packets, but pound for pound as a commodity it is not the most expensive.
The best? Was it ever? Did anyone ever claim that to be the case? Rare – yes. Mysterious – certainly, but never the best. I am not sure that any coffee could be declared the best. Coffee is such a varied flavour provider with the myriad of varietals available and regional subtleties derived from soil and weather conditions amongst other things.
It is difficult enough not to change one’s favourite coffee season on season – that is the fun and excitement of it all, eagerly awaiting what is coming next and comparing it with previous crops – nevermind finding even two people who would agree on a single coffee. Individual taste varies so much, and fortunately the wonderful world of coffee caters for us all.
It would be nice if one of these days a tv chef would take a guided journey around the wonderful world of truely great coffees where they could rejoice in the fantastic spectrum of flavours that we enthusiasts all know and enjoy.
Rick was still great though.