NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE
While we've seen a rainbow tidal wave of Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccinos on Instagram, coffee fans around the world have found even stranger ways to drink coffee over the years. From coffee beans harvested from the droppings of animals to the addition of cheese, eggs, and alcohol, growers and drinkers use plenty of bizarre ways to improve coffee's flavor. So if you’re looking for something that’s way beyond cappuccino in your next cup of Joe, these are some of the weirdest coffee products from around the world.
BLACK IVORY COFFEE AKA 'ELEPHANT DUNG COFFEE'
The most expensive coffee in the world also happens to be one of the strangest. Developed by Canadian entrepreneur Blake Dinkin, Black Ivory Coffee is made by feeding coffee seeds -- often called coffee cherries -- to elephants, then collecting the beans from the animal's dung before they're cleaned and processed. The resulting coffee is said to be mellow and a bit nutty thanks fermentation in the digestive system, and sells for a whopping $1,800 for just over 2 pounds of the stuff.
CIVET COFFEE AKA 'CAT POOP COFFEE'
Another pricey coffee that's produced with the help of animals, this one is made by feeding coffee cherries to wild palm civets -- a cat-like creature known as kopi luwak in Indonesia -- and then collecting the beans from the animals' feces. The resulting coffee is rich, smooth and rounded, and sells for about $80 per cup in the U.S. Rising popularity, however, has led to widespread mistreatment of civets in captivity, so many sustainable-coffee organizations discourage consumption.
JACU BIRD DROPPING COFFEE
A coffee farmer in Brazil discovered that the jacu -- an endangered, pheasant-like bird, native to the rainforest -- enjoyed eating the ripest of his biodynamically grown coffee cherries. And while he was first worried about his disappearing crop, he soon learned that harvesting the cherries from the jacu's droppings -- a labor-intensive process done by hand -- the resulting coffee offered a unique and refined nutty flavor of aniseed. The coffee retails for roughly $17 per ounce.
As more states across the U.S. have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, more companies are offering cannabis infused coffee products. Giving new meaning to the term “wake and bake,” these products include cold brew and even Keurig-friendly pods like the cleverly named Pot-O-Coffee and the compostable Brew Budz. More than just a recent trend, literary greats Honoré de Balzac and Charles Baudelaire famously drank strong coffee with hashish (along with nuts, spices and butter) at Paris’ Club des Hashischins in the 1840s.
While many of us enjoy eggs with our coffee, not all of us put our eggs in our coffee. But for several cultures around the world, the combo is a delicacy. In Vietnam, a strong and bitter brew is mixed with condensed milk, egg yolks and sugar; in Indonesia they add honey; and in Sri Lanka they add brandy. In Sweden and parts of the Midwest where many Swedes immigrated, some coffee drinkers add egg whites during the brewing process.
BIRD SALIVA COFFEE
Delicate bird nests made by a protein-rich secretion from the swallow-like swiftlet have long been a prized delicacy in China and other parts of Asia for alleged health benefits. Traditionally added to soups, the saliva nests are now mixed into porridges, candies and, of course, coffee. The nests are one of the most expensive foods in the world, and the coffees can be pricey as well.
While sipping coffee on a rainy day is great, in India they wait until the intense rains of monsoon season to produce a special variety of coffee. The process involves layering top grade Arabica beans in 4-6 inch layers and exposing them to the moisture-rich monsoon winds in a ventilated warehouse. As the beans absorb moisture, they swell to double their size, take on a pale gold color, and result in a smooth, low-acid cup of coffee.
WHISKEY BARREL COFFEE
Whiskey and coffee has long been a natural pairing -- think Irish coffee -- but a few dedicated connoisseurs in Colorado have taken the combo to a new level. Whiskey Barrel Coffee uses green, unroasted coffee beans from a special grower, and ages them in used bourbon barrels before small batch roasting them. The beans soak up the bourbon that was absorbed in the barrel during the aging process, imparting the unique flavor characteristics of the bourbon and oak.
MONKEY SPIT COFFEE
If you're not crazy about coffee from animal droppings, then maybe chewed coffee is more your speed. Rhesus monkeys in the mountains of Chickmagalur, India, pick and chew the ripest coffee cherries. They eat the fruit, and spit out the coffee bean and its surrounding parchment, which is then painstakingly harvested, washed, processed, and dried. The monkeys' saliva triggers enzymes in the coffee to break down, offering a sweeter, vanilla flavor -- and sells for about $325 per pound.
In Northern Scandinavia, the indigenous Sami people have performed an elaborate coffee ceremony since the late 19th century, which involves adding cheese to carefully brewed coffee. Coffee cheese -- known as kaffeost in Sweden -- continues to be a popular beverage throughout Scandinavia. The mild and squishy cheese -- made with reindeer, cow, or sheep milk -- is formed into a disc and then baked, before being cubed and covered in coffee.
Dropping a red-hot lump of coal in your coffee may just be the pick-me-up you need. Known as kopi joss, charcoal coffee can be found in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where street vendors carefully plop a searing hot coal into a cup of coffee sweetened with a lot of sugar. The coal is meant to help neutralize the acidity of the coffee and help alleviate digestive problems -- you've likely seen activated charcoal in health food stores for the same purpose.
Mushrooms have long been used for medicinal purposes as well as a coffee substitute. And now a Finnish company, Four Sigmatic, has incorporated mushroom extracts into Arabica beans for a coffee that's low-acid and said to offer health benefits. In addition to lowering acidity and bitterness, lion's mane mushrooms help boost the brain and nervous system, while chaga mushrooms offer antioxidant properties.
SPICY TACO COFFEE
For those looking for an extra kick in the morning, Spicy Taco Coffee brings some serious taco flavor. While you won't find an actual taco in your coffee, fans say the roast and spices really smell like tacos and offer a distinctive chipotle flavor. Maybe not for everybody, but definitely for the taco lover in your life.
Café Du Monde is a required stop when visiting New Orleans, that's where you'll find the city's signature caffeinated beverage -- chicory coffee. The coffee is made with the dried and ground root of the chicory plant -- a blue-flowered perennial in the dandelion family -- and while it was used as a coffee substitute during the Civil War, it's typically blended with Arabica beans. The roasted chicory adds a bit of sweet nuttiness to the coffee, and is typically made with warm milk and served with fried beignets.
PURPLE UBE DIRTY HORCHATA
At FrankieLucy Bakeshop in Los Angeles, you'll find plenty of sweet cross-cultural treats, including the purple ube dirty horchata. The colorful beverage uses purple ube -- a yam popular in the Phillippines -- to make horchata -- the sweet rice beverage found throughout Latin America -- and the vibrant drink receives a shot of espresso to make it "dirty" and delicious.
FLAMING MAYAN COFFEE
For a truly fiery cup of Joe, head to the resorts of Riviera Maya in Mexico, where your meal can end with a Flaming Mayan Coffee prepared tableside. To make the beverage, hot coffee is first poured into a sugar-rimmed glass. Then Kahlua or brandy is combined with Xtabentún, an anise-flavored liqueur from the Yucatán, then lit on fire and poured back and forth in sauceboats. The dramatic effect creates a flaming waterfall that is then poured in your coffee and topped with ice cream.
CARAMEL COFFEE JELLY FRAPPUCCINO
Starbucks is known for offering creative coffee beverages that are culturally unique to particular countries -- creations that often seem very strange to outsiders -- and this Japanese and U.K. favorite is no exception. Coffee jelly -- a popular Japanese dessert made from coffee and gelatin -- is used as the base, and is topped with a custard vanilla sauce, blended coffee and whipped cream.
DEATH WISH COFFEE
If ordinary coffee just doesn't have enough buzz for you, it may be time for Death Wish Coffee. Boasting the highest caffeine content in a cup, this potent brew uses an especially strong blend of Arabica and robusta beans and is for the truly commited caffiene fiend. And if your nerves can handle it, you may want to try a taste test with Ahab's Revenge from roaster Dean's Beans, which lays claim to developing the most caffeinated cup before Death Wish.
SEA SALT COFFEE
Regarded as the “Starbucks of Asia” with over 1,000 locations worldwide, the Taiwan-based coffee chain 85°C (named for the perfect temperature to brew coffee) has created a buzz with their iced sea salt lattes. For the sea salt beverages (which include a coffee smoothie and iced caramel latte), the sea salt is incorporated into the latte foam, a subtle addition designed to bring out more of the coffee flavor just as salt is often sprinkled on fruit in Taiwan to enhance the sweetness. They also offer traditional and unique pastries like the popular squid ink bun with cheese and garlic.
COFFEE WITH TONIC WATER
One of the more straightforward coffee creations, this one involves pouring espresso into a glass with tonic water and ice. The result is a crisp and citrusy beverage with the added visual bonus of the coffee cascading through the carbonated tonic. Swedish roaster Koppi is credited with originating the Kaffe Tonic, as they call it, but now it can be found at many coffee shops including Stumptown’s Cold Brew Tonic with Luxardo cherries. Fruitier beans are preferred, from Kenya or Ethiopia, and some places add rosemary, pomegranate molasses, and even alcohol.
COFFEE WITH BUTTER AND OIL
Most popularly known as Bulletproof Coffee, the company behind the trend, this concoction involves blending coffee with butter and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil usually derived from coconut oil. The drink was inspired by yak butter-infused tea from Tibet. The company (and it’s cult of loyal adherents) claim the fatty brew can increase brain power, boost energy and help you lose weight. While buttered coffee can be found elsewhere in the world, and is certainly a delicious blend, there are some doubts about the bold health claims.
COFFEE WITH LIME OR LEMON
Pouring espresso over a couple slices of lime, known as a Guillermo, is one way to brighten the bright, fruity notes of the roast and add a bit of tartness. It’s sometimes served iced and occasionally with milk. While the origin story of this one is unclear, it’s most often found in coffee shops in the U.S. despite its Spanish nickname. In some cases, espresso is served with a strip of lemon peel, which is known as Espresso Romano, which despite the name is mostly found in the U.S. and France.
While you might not think flowers in your coffee is a good idea, one of the latest funky coffee trends involves adding lavender syrup to lattes, often garnished with the flower. For thousands of years, lavender has been used to reduce anxiety, stress and sleeplessness, so added to coffee, those calming effects are designed to counteract coffee’s jittery side effects. It also makes for a beautiful Instagram shot. Some places, like Bia Coffee in Los Angeles, also use rose syrup in their lattes.
MAPLE BACON COFFEE
Because bacon makes pretty much everything better, it should come as no surprise that you can find it in your cup of joe. Maple Bacon Coffee combines the best flavors of breakfast into a bag of beans, which no doubt brews well with a plate of crispy bacon and pancakes with maple syrup.
For those of looking to cut down on the paper waste of disposable coffee cups, some geniuses have deliciously devised edible cups. Italian coffee pros Lavazza designed a shortbread cookie cup, while L.A.-based Alfred Coffee serves espresso in a tiny waffle cup that’s triple-dipped in chocolate. And even KFC has experimented with their own edible coffee cups. Hope you like a snack with your coffee.