While relaxing in our hotel in the heart of the old quarter in Hanoi, I read in the guide book about Weasel coffee. Now as an owner of pet ferrets this kind of appealed to me. A coffee brewed from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a Weasel, I mean how cool is that! So begun a long and often highly caffeinated search for the real thing.
First a little bit of background, the so called Vietnamese Weasel or Chon as it known locally is actually the Asian Palm Civet not a Weasel at all. The process of digestion alters the beans flavour making for a very smooth and strong but not bitter brew. This is a coffee that is exceptionally rare ( I mean how many coffee eating Civet’s can there be) and expensive. One coffee house in Australia sells it for $55.00 a cup. The Weasel coffee company in New Zealand sells it for $80.00 for 100 grams when they can get it. So you get the picture.
Cute Civet in a tourist shop… But, Sorry no real weasel coffee sold here.
The problem is that the Vietnamese have perfected a roasting process that mimic’s that of the digestive tract of the weasel, clever folks! You might just shell out a whole lot of cash for nothing more than a specially roasted bean. First up I started my search with the coffee sellers in Hang Bac street of which there are a dozen or so all claiming of course to have the real thing.
After an afternoon of tasting and high pressure sales talk, I returned to the hotel dejected but rather wired I must admit. Could I trust any of them? Was there any real Weasel coffee to be found here or was it all a sham. So I turned to the internet to do some serious research. Much more informed now I set out to do more tasting and haggling with these sellers.
First thing I realised in my research was that my chances of locating some Real Weasel poo coffee where in fact close to zero. Almost a myth but not quite… Weasel coffee is produced in quantities of a few hundred kilograms a year. Not to be put off by this fact I decided that I would look for the best tasting Weasel coffee real or not I could find.
Tastes awesome, but no it is not the real thing…
Once again I set off to do the rounds of all the shops again, this time with my trusty wife/anthropologist Monica at my side. A couple of hours later and starting to feel a tad nauseous from all the strong coffee, we entered into the last shop. I went ahead and asked my question. “Do you have any real Chon coffee”… Not the stuff in the containers labeled Weasel? The young fellow said Yes of course he had some real Chon coffee. Oh really?
Well all of a sudden we were ushered out to the back room and seated at a small table next to the bathroom, all kind of secret agent like. Several minutes later we were presented with a cup of black coffee each. One more cup can’t hurt or could it? Monica eyed me with a look that said this is it the real poo coffee? Because if it is I’m not drinking it… Come on I said having already tasted mine it’s heavenly, by far the best coffee yet. So in the name of science she took a sip. Hmmm… “Very good now are we going to buy some or just keep looking” ? Ah that is a good point. So we ended up with a bag full of beans, of one of the best damn coffees I have ever had… and even if it isn’t weasel poo. I don’t care as we had a hell of a lot of fun searching for it.
I also purchased a box of Trung Nguyen Legendee coffee which unfortunately is sold to tourists as the real thing ( it is not, it is a replicated Weasel coffee) for up to $70.00. You should be able to find it for around the $10-15.00 mark so be aware of this. It comes in a big bright yellow box of 500 grams ( sealed with a hologram sticker) and is produced by Vietnam’s best coffee producer. We did not have the chance to try it until we got home.
I have to say if you are going to buy just one Weasel poo type coffee then this is the one. Read about it here Legendee Coffee. The use by date is on the box prefixed by HSD. Happy hunting!
I have now returned to Vietnam a second time and many countries such as Australia have banned the importation of weasel coffee from the country! So be careful what you call your coffee.