5 June 2013

And the Coffee Was Crap .......

The Civet
Actually, the coffee was shit but as I now post my blog on some august sites and they would not allow language such as I have just used in the title, we’ll stick to 'crap' for the time being.

Now normally we’d be in the middle of the BBQ season by now but the weather down here has been so bad that last Saturday (1st June) was our first of the year. Inevitably, as we sat gorging on burgers, prawns and merguez sausages and drinking lashings of champagne and rosé, the rain came down, but luckily we were sat under a canopy of oak trees so we stayed quite dry.

But as the weather is finally changing for the better and just like London buses, the invitations are now coming in thick and fast (it’s difficult being so popular !) and so tonight we were invited down to the house of a couple we’ve met a couple of times. It wasn’t a BBQ but a balcony soirée in a domaine just off the main road along the coast.

For the uninitiated, a domaine is a guarded commune where there are gates, guards, lifts, garages and horrendously expensive service charges and although inside, the apartment was very nice, from the outside it was a building the UK authorities would have pulled down years ago.

When you travel along the main coastal motorway (A8) from the west towards Nice, you get to an arched bridge which crosses the autoroute. If people could stop at this point they would as the bridge majestically frames Nice, the famous bay, the bright blue sea and encapsulates the Cȏte d’Azur in a single, stunning image. 

However, as you pass under this bridge heading towards the most popular part of the Provence coastline and are transfixed by the view, three large, very large blocks of flats come into focus. Huge, 13-floor anonymous, office-like buildings which in any UK town would be given over to asylum seekers, homeless 16 year olds with three kids or drug addicts, in fact anybody who just wants a roof over their head and isn't worried about the architecture. The only thing which differentiates these housing blocks from those in the UK are the matching sun shades on each balcony and the grounds which are immaculate, nevertheless, the buildings are a blot on the landscape and that’s not just my view, but also the view of the host (Steen) who hated his apartment from the outside but loved the inside.

As soon as we arrived I could tell we were in Scandinavian company. The host, after all is Swedish and all the guests I introduced myself to were from Sweden, Norway or Denmark…….. and they were all old. It’s a long time since I’ve been to a ‘do’ where I’ve been the youngest, but here, I was the youngest almost by a generation. OK, Julie is a few years younger than me but quite a few of the guests thought we were the host’s kids !! Embarrassing ? Oui !

Anyway, it turned out a pleasant evening with the various guests asking me what school I went to, what sort of music I listened to and whether I was old enough to be demolishing the bottle of rosé I was getting stuck into.

Of course, being xenophobic and stereotypical about Scandinavian fish eaters, I was waiting for the pickled herring and smoked eel to be brought out but I was pleasantly surprised by the normal nibbles of cheese, bread, saucisson, humous etc. It was all very nice, especially when the hot samosas, spring rolls and prawn balls arrived.

And then, after a couple of hours or so, the guests started to leave - one by one, or two by two as most were couples. Then J wanted to go. I’m certain she was looking at her watch and was working out that if we left at that point we’d get into the restaurants in Vence for a slap-up meal but I needed a coffee and as if by magic, the coffee cups appeared – result !

Our hostess, Wendy, then declared that what she was about to serve was the world’s most expensive coffee. Working on the basis that she’d obviously been shopping in our local Gallerie Lafayette, which only the super rich use for their weekly food shopping, I looked forward to a Carte Noir Supreme or even a special Nescafé but no, this WAS the world’s most expensive coffee called Kopi Luwak. Ever heard of it ? No, neither had I.

‘OK Wendy, so what’s so special about Kopi Luwak then’, I asked.

‘It’s monkey shit’, she replied.

‘Nah’, said I.

‘No really, Kopi Luwak is made from coffee beans passed through the digestive system of an Indonesian animal, but it's more like a cat than a monkey.  The digested beans don't really get mixed with the animal’s excrement though, the animal processes the beans and excretes them whole, unscratched, and without dung. The animal is a palm civet, a dark brown tree-dwelling cat-like creature found throughout Southeast Asia. The scientific name is paradoxurus hermaphroditus.’

According to the Manila Coffee House, the palm civet just happens to like to ingest the ripest and reddest coffee beans, which also happen to be the ones best for brewing.  The cat eats the outer covering of the beans in the same way that is accomplished by de-pulping machines.  Something happens to the beans in the journey through the cat's intestines that gives it a flavor that is celebrated by coffee drinkers.   

‘Another cup Tom’ said our hostess.

‘No thanks Wendy’, I’ll stick to Carte Noir I said as I headed rapidly towards the loo.


Allison said...

I guess I can never call coffee from work "shitty coffee" again! Who knew it could be so esteemed? :)
Hysterical post - I've missed your blog very much, Tom!

Anonymous said...

So you have never seen the film The Bucket List then Tom. Steve