Cat got your tongue: Getting a taste of civet coffee in Bengaluru

Topics Coffee | Bengaluru | coffee and tea

Ainmane Cafe
The latest entrant to Bengaluru’s ever-burgeoning coffee-crafting space, set in a green leafy bylane in Indiranagar, already has a steady stream of customers. After carefully studying the hand-written boards at the Ainmane Cafe and Speciality Store, a first-time visitor asks at the counter, “Is this really from the civet or just a regular cat?” His question elicits laughter, but he doesn’t wait for an answer before placing an order for a cup of kopi luwak, the Indonesian term for “civet coffee”. A little later, a lady buying some of the Monsooned Malabar coffee powder, made from beans exposed to the elements during the rainy season, is asked whether she’d like to try the kopi luwak. Her response is a vehement “no, no, no!”


With one kilogram costing about Rs 25,000 in the international market, kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee. It’s also the most polarising since it is made from the droppings of the Asian palm civet that feeds on coffee cherries. With dominant earthy and woody tones, kopi luwak is an acquired taste more for the mind than the tongue.

Ainmane cafe in Bengaluru
“Civets eat the flesh of the coffee cherries and not the bean. The natural enzymes in a civet’s stomach enhances the bean’s flavour,” explains Narendra Hebbar, co-founder of the startup called Coorg Consolidated Commodities, which produces India’s only brand of civet coffee. Under the Ainmane brand, 100 grams of kopi luwak is sold for Rs 900, and a pourover is priced at Rs 430. The coffee comes with a hefty price tag because plantation workers have to scout for civet scat which then undergoes rounds of washing, drying, sieving and roasting. The process is lengthier than that required for the average coffee bean.


“Apart from tourists who’ve started asking for this coffee recently in Coorg (Kodagu), civet coffee has also become a very popular gifting item. We’ve intentionally kept the price much lower than in international markets to make it popular locally,” says Hebbar. Bengaluru-based Gowri (she goes by just one name) brought the Ainmane Cafe to the city for the same reason: to create a market for local products. Even as she considers opening more of these centres in the city, a great part of the brand’s charm is in its being a neighbourhood-friendly cafe, she says. While the al fresco seating area was created keeping in mind the city’s much-celebrated weather, it’s also built to be pet-friendly.


Modelled after its namesake in Madikeri, Bengaluru’s cosy Ainmane Café’s inventory is firmly rooted in local produce. There’s kachumpuli, a country vinegar that’s a fixture of the Kodava kitchen, and varieties of jams and marmalades made from passion fruit and Coorg mandarin. There’s also a selection of spices such as pepper, cardamom and bird’s eye chilli as well as potti then, honey collected in wooden boxes, and kala then, honey harvested from traditional earthen pots. Bengaluru residents can also place orders for Ainmane products online.

Ainmane cafe in Bengaluru
But the civet coffee is easily the star attraction among all of Kodagu’s other specialities available here, including other coffees and cocoa products, besides the quiches and pies that the café sources from home-chefs. Commonly referred to as the civet cat, the nocturnal being is in fact more closely related to the mongoose than to felines. And, we are promised, there are no horrific backstories here: unlike the original civet coffee from countries such as Indonesia, where the animals are caged to ensure a steady supply of “raw material”, Ainmane’s coffee is cruelty-free. No civets are harmed, caged or domesticated on their coffee estates spanning Kodagu’s verdant highlands. The wild animals are allowed to move freely from forest to forest, making pit stops at plantations to feast on coffee cherries.


It’s hard to tell if the curiosity that is currently driving the sales of civet coffee will convert to a steady customer base in the land of the punch-packed filter coffee. While we wait to know, this contender is literally minting money from poop.


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Twitter: @ChloeNw

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