SARS fears have stopped the Chinese from eating civet cats. But that hasn't turned off others from sipping the strangest of brews -- one they insist is made from coffee beans eaten, partly digested and then excreted by the weasel-like animals. \nThe story goes like this: Civets live in the foliage of plantations across Southeast Asia. These fussy foragers pick the best and ripest coffee berries. Enzymes in their digestive system break down the flesh of the fruit before the animals expel the bean. \nWorkers collect beans from the plantation floor, wash away the dung and roast them to produce a unique drink that devotees might say is good to the last dropping. \nSkeptics, though, dismiss it all as a weird and unverifiable marketing gimmick. \nStill in Indonesia's capital Jakarta, the owner of three fashionable cafes, Agus Susanto, sells what he claims is a mix of regular beans and those that have passed through civets. The blend and the cafes are both called "Kopi Luwak" -- in English: "Civet Coffee." \n"Our coffee has a strong taste and an even stronger aroma," Susanto said by telephone from his factory in central Java. \nIn Vietnam, now the world's second-largest regular coffee grower, a blend supposedly containing some civet beans is produced by the Trung Nguyen company under the "Weasel Coffee" brand. \nIn the Philippines, the Old Manila Coffee House used to sell a civet brew, but supplies have dwindled over the years, said Ellen Tuason, its finance officer. \n"Some of our guests said it was an aphrodisiac. It has a strong coffee smell, but different. There is a distinct odor and flavor," she said. \nThe beans are also marketed internationally. Several US-based Internet coffee traders claim to offer them for up to US$325 a kilogram, placing it among the world's most expensive beverages. \nHowever, many in Asia's coffee trade doubt whether the beans are truly produced in significant quantities, if at all. \n"There are maybe a few bags here, a few bags there, but mostly its just a myth," said Victor Mah, a Singaporean who has been selling coffee from Southeast Asia for more than 25 years. \nOthers just won't swallow the claims. \n"I think it's a big scam," said Mark Hanusz, who has spent eight months traveling Indonesia researching his book about coffee called A Cup of Java. \nIn the past few weeks, authorities in southern China have exterminated thousands of civet cats on fears that they carry and spread the SARS virus. \nThe World Health Organization also sees a potential relationship between the furry black-and-white animals and the disease that killed 774 people worldwide last year. \nIf that link is confirmed, consumer interest in civet coffee could plummet. \nBut in Jakarta, Susanto isn't worried. He expects to keep selling what he claims is 100 tonnes of civet coffee a month. \n"There are many different kinds of civets in this world. The Indonesian ones are different from those in China," he said. \nHenry Harmon, an American from Boston, Massachusetts, who owns a chain of coffee shops in Indonesia, said he thinks the drink is for real, though he has no plans to introduce it in his stores. \n"It has a nice romantic -- well semi-romantic -- twist to it, but I'd be worried about product liability lawsuits," Harmon said.
FEELING THREATENED: The first military commission under Kim Jong-un’s leadership to last longer than a day is a sign of a growing escalatory doctrine, an analyst said North Korea discussed assigning additional duties to its frontline army units at a key military meeting, state media said yesterday, suggesting that the country might deploy battlefield nuclear weapons targeting South Korea along the rivals’ tense border. The discussion comes as South Korean officials said North Korea has finished preparations for its first nuclear test in five years, as part of possible efforts to build a warhead to be mounted on short-range weapons capable of hitting targets in South Korea. During an ongoing meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and
TRADE TALK: Xiao Qian said that Australia had fired the ‘first shot’ in deteriorating trade relations with China, but improvements were possible if Canberra takes action China’s new ambassador to Australia chided protesters who heckled him yesterday during a speech about the future of relations between the two countries. Xiao Qian (肖千), who has only been in the role since January, had just begun his speech at the University of Technology Sydney when the first protesters interjected, calling for freedom for Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. The ambassador was repeatedly interrupted by sign-wielding protesters, some criticizing China’s treatment of the Uighur people as well as the university for inviting Xiao to speak. “People who are coming again and again to interrupt the process, that’s not expression of freedom of
A former South Korean Navy SEAL turned YouTuber who risked jail time to leave Seoul and fight for Ukraine said it would have been a “crime” not to use his skills to help. Ken Rhee, a former special warfare officer, signed up at the Ukrainian embassy in Seoul the moment Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for global volunteers and was fighting on the front lines near Kyiv by early March. To get there, he had to break South Korean law — Seoul banned its citizens from traveling to Ukraine, and Rhee, who was injured in a fall while leading a special operations
Indonesian President and G20 Chairman Joko Widodo yesterday set off to Europe where he said he plans to visit Russia and Ukraine and meet with the countries’ leaders to urge peace talks. Widodo departed for Germany to attend the G7 summit as a guest yesterday and today, after which he plans to go to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “The mission is to ask ... President Zelenskiy to open a dialogue forum for peace, to build peace because the war has to be stopped,” Widodo told a news conference in Jakarta. The two leaders would also discuss the