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VOL: CCCXVII NO: 73 Serving the North Quabbin Region Since 1934
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

home : opinion : columns September 30, 2014

6/26/2013 12:19:00 PM
Along These Lines
Coffee Brew-haha
By Nick Thomas

While I can embrace the invigorating morning aroma of freshly brewed coffee percolating in the kitchen, I've never found the taste as rewarding as the fragrance. Perhaps I should invest in fancier blends, instead of buying the local discount store's two-for-one, past used-by date, bargain brand, "Grounds for Complaint."

For the true java adventurer, however, there are many exotic coffees available in today's world market. As the name suggests, Galapagos coffee is grown on one of the islands (San Cristobal) that comprise the Galapagos archipelago, off the coast of Ecuador.

It sells for around $20 per pound and reportedly has "an intense aroma, medium acidity, and round flavor" but with a hint of "tobacco and leather." While not to my taste, it might appeal to the Marlboro cowboy crowd.

One of the more well-known exotic coffees is "processed" by Asian palm civets, small cat-like critters with a fondness for coffee berries. Stripped to the seeds by their digestive journey through the civet's gastric system, the "beans" emerge imbued with a prized aroma and flavor, and are then hand-picked from the animals' waste.

Unfortunately, the coffee's appeal quickly led to factory farming, with animals being force-fed beans under appalling conditions. This is another reason I won't be paying around $100 for a cup, even if it does make a great crapachino that's good to the last drop.

Along these alimentary lines, elephants have recently been charged with similar internal percolating duties in Thailand. The beans are mixed with bananas and sugar cane which the elephants readily devour. This pachyderm passage reportedly infuses "unique earthy and fruity flavors" into the emerging beans. Some lucky worker then plucks the precious beans from mountains of elephant dung in what has become an emerging big business.

If you prefer your coffee not to pass all the way through an animal's digestive tract, perhaps monkey chewed coffee might be more to your taste. In India, Rhesus monkeys chew coffee berries then spit out the beans which are collected for sale. Enzymes in the monkey salvia break down the coffee giving it a unique and saleable quality. I just hope this isn't how Hershey's make their "Rhesus" peanut butter cups.

What surprises me is that no one has attempted to duplicate this process with other primates. Sure, it's a little gross, but could coffee chomping humans impart personal traits to coffee flavor?

This idea needs to be tested. And who better to use than some of our noted politicians. I believe we could even predict how politically processed coffee beans might taste after being munched on by specific individuals:

Mitt Romney coffee: Rich flavor, but a little oily for some tastes.

Michael Bloomberg coffee: Extremely rich flavor, but he would only permit a limit of one 8-oz cup per customer in New York City.

John McCain coffee: Vintage flavor with a distinct sharpness that develops with age.

Joe Biden coffee: Gives new meaning to the term "Cup of Joe." But after processing, can sometimes be a little coarse.

Chris Christie coffee: Has a rare, fresh earthiness making it memorable. Traditionally well balanced, with full, round body.

Sarah Palin coffee: Despite the attractive packaging, comes across to many as a little nutty.

Nancy Pelosi coffee: Long past expiration date. Recycle.

John Boehner coffee: The House Speaker wouldn't actually be able to digest the beans; they would cause an obstruction.

Ron Paul coffee: Combined nutty and winey characteristics make it unique, but largely ignored.

Hillary Clinton coffee: While generally smooth and lacking in acidity, may now have a distinct burnt flavor. Risks developing moldiness common in aging blends, unless reformulated.

Barack Obama coffee: Refreshing initially, but invigorating flavor dwindles with time.

Ted Cruz coffee: Being relatively new on the market, would develop a reputation for boldness. But with more than a hint of fruitiness, should probably be certified.

Upon reflection, think I'll stick with my discount brand until Glade comes out with a realistic coffee scented room freshener.

Thomas' features and columns have appeared in more than 300 magazines and newspapers, and he is the author of "Raised by the Stars," published by McFarland. He can be reached at his blog:

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