Every Christmas Eve my schoolfriends and I gather in one of our old under-age drinking haunts for pints and pressies. This year there was someone missing, my best friend V, who has been travelling since last June. Her brother Tom had just been out to Vietnam to see her, entrusted with a care package from England containing copies of Grazia, Percy Pigs and flying saucers, and some Topshop fripperies. These are the things you need when you've swapped heels and Chanel lipsticks for trekking sandals and a dry-kwik rubbery towel. I digress. So, during the excitable exchange of holly-sprigged, bowed and tagged gifts, Tom sheepishly passed me a handbag fashioned from chicken-feed sacks. Inside were five mishappen bundles, wrapped in a Hanoi newspaper and secured with lumps of parcel tape. Treasure from a sorely-missed friend.
On Christmas Day I ripped open the bundles to find four stainless steel Vietnamese coffee cups and, joy of joys, weasel coffee. I've heard about this unconventionally sourced joe but never tried it. Until now. For the unitiated weasel coffee, or kopi luwak in Vietnamese, is coffee made from berries which have passed through the digestive tract of the Asian palm civet and, how can I put this, reached the other side. That's right - it's a post-poo brew. The reason it's so popular, and indeed one of the world's most expensive coffees, is that while the berries are in the civets' tummies, stomach enzymes leech into them - producing a smooth coffee with hardly any bitterness.
I've brought the weasel coffee back to the 'shire for Mothers' Day weekend. Pa Salty is keen to try it after seeing it in The Bucket List, and y'know, he's not going to be shown up by a decrepid Jack Nicholson. Ma Salty is less convinced.
The cups come with various detachables and filtery bits. Yikes. This is going to be more complicated than I thought. Also, we don't have condensed milk. So this is going to be weasel coffee, Kent-style. A quick google directs me to a guide for assembling these steel contraptions. "It is very basic and simple, but it works" says the guide. Phew. Reassured, I go in all guns blazing, like a man with a new gadget - not reading the whole guide from start to finish, and undeterred by the fact that my cups don't look quite like the pictures and don't have twiddly bits on the side.
We open the weasel coffee - it smells sweet and vanilla-y. We heap three teaspoonfuls into the tiny cups, which seems a bit much. Never mind. I put the silver saucers underneath the cups, and try and tighten the filters as much as I can. And then... disaster.
We pour the boiling water into the cups and, it turns out those missing twiddly bits are quite important little screws, because soon hot mahogany liquid is pooling over Ma Salty's worktop and onto the floor. She is not impressed.
These contraptions may have handles and be cup-shaped, but cups they are not. I thought it was a two-in-one self-contained filter n'cup thing, but clearly I have been a fool. Pa Salty is now bored and wants to stick the post-poo brew in his Bodum. The dog is barking. But I persist. This coffee has come a long way...
We get out some regular espresso cups - the filters perch awkwardly on top. Attempt 2: if it works correctly, the coffee should take about five minutes to filter through to the cup. This better be worth it. It takes two or three minutes - there is still a tightening issue but overall a great improvement on round one. The coffee is now lukewarm but tastes pretty good - smoky, with notes of dark chocolate and vanilla. "It tastes like normal coffee with a bit of chocolate dunked in it," says Pa Salty. "Very nice," says Ma Salty. Done properly, with condensed milk, it would be heavenly. I'm still not sure it's the world's best coffee, but clearly I've been missing my calling as the world's worst barrista...
Weasel coffee, Kent style.