Is That Cheese in my Coffee?

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    I am a coffee purist – mostly. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I will choose a regular cup of strong, rich coffee enhanced by a good-sized dollop of half and half over any menu item. No sugar. Skip the foam. Bypass the gathered tears of Swedish milk maids. Call it mundane or boring, but I know what I like and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    That said, I also eat and drink more adventurously than many Americans. I’m game to try anything once, as long as it isn’t wiggling too much. I’ve enjoyed squirrel stew, grilled frog legs, turtle stew, snails, and pickled quail eggs. I try new items when I dine in Indian, Korean, and Thai restaurants. My dream job would be exploring the planet’s cultures one taste bud at a time, like Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern. There are few better ways to understand a people group than by eating and drinking traditional cuisine, coffee drinks included.

    Below is a short list of unique coffee drinks from around the world that go beyond interesting. Some even venture into the land of the bizarre.

    (Disclaimer: I have not tasted four out of these five libations. If someone would like to buy me a round-trip airline ticket to four different countries, I’ll gladly drink the local offering and report back with my findings. It never hurts to ask, right?)


    From my perspective, Finland’s Kaffeost wins the award for the most unique coffee additive. What’s the additive? It’s actually a soft cheese (yes, cheese!) called Juustoleipä. The word Juustoleipä is Finnish for “bread cheese.” It’s a mild variety that has traditionally been made from reindeer milk. Goat’s milk or cow’s milk can be also used. The cheese is grilled, toasted, or baked, resulting in a distinctive brown crust and bread-like appearance. The Juustoleipä is cut into bite-sized pieces, and the end result is a collection of square chunks a bit larger than a sugar cube. Several pieces of this cheese are placed in the bottom of a coffee cup, and piping hot coffee is poured over the top. Because of its unique crust and texture, the Juustoleipä doesn’t melt! The qualities of the cheese preparation actually cause it to become soft when heated by the coffee. It turns luscious and creamy as it begins to absorb the brew in which it swims. Many aficionados also eat the softened cheese with a spoon once the coffee is gone.

    Purchasing this cheese in the states can be pricey, but online options do exist. If you’re up for a culinary adventure, try making Juustoleipä yourself by following the steps laid out in this tutorial:

    Kopi Luwak

    Would you spend a week’s income on a pound of coffee that has made the rounds inside an animal’s digestive tract? Indonesia has Kopi Luwak, coffee beans that are harvested from the droppings of a cat-like animal called a civet. Brazil features Jacu Bird coffee. Thailand offers an elephant poop brew called Black Ivory. The idea of ingesting something that was pooped out by an animal doesn’t bother me, because the roasting process would kill any nasties. But the exorbitant price is a major turn-off. Cost prohibits me from having any desire to try these brews, because I am a hard-core frugal cheapskate.

    Kopi Luwak is rumored to taste like used car parts mixed with burnt rubber. And with animal conservation groups expressing concern for the humane treatment of captive civets, I might consider a cup if it was 100% wild-sourced. Burnt rubber isn’t my go-to flavor profile, so I’ll pass.

    Jacu Bird coffee is better received taste-wise. Coffee experts use words like mellow, nutty, chocolaty, and anise-like to describe it. Black Ivory coffee has been described as floral, milky, tea-like, and soft. Both of these beans appear to be more ethically sourced than kopi luwak. Next time I’m flitting from resort to resort in Asia or South America, maybe I’ll splurge on a cup.

    Cà Phê Trứng

    Vietnam is the home of a coffee beverage that incorporates eggs. If you’re picturing a rubbery mass of scrambled breakfast bits floating in black water, perish the thought. Vietnamese egg coffee is prepared by first whipping together egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, a smidgen of coffee, sugar, vanilla, and sometimes cheese. The resulting egg cream is a sweet, thick, luscious concoction with a flavor like soft caramel. Strong black Robusta coffee is poured into a hot cup. Then the egg cream mixture gently joins the party as the mug takes a bath in super heated water for several minutes to aid the cooking process. The custardy goodness rises to the top as it forms a separate layer over the rich coffee.

    How does it taste? One Buzzfeed writer referred to the beverage as “liquid tiramisu.” Since so many online posts concurred with this analogy, I simply had to try it myself. I followed the steps in this tutorial to make my own version at home, because the video had me practically drooling by the end. It was delectable, and liquid tiramisu is a spot-on description.

    I don’t want to know how many calories and grams of sugar or fat are in this cup of goodness. It’s for the best.

    Café Touba

    Fancy a peppery bite in your java? The African nation of Sénégal boasts a brew called Café Touba. It’s a traditional Sénégalese beverage. The spicy flavor comes from the addition of Grains of Selim, a seed also known (among other names) as Ethiopian pepper, Sénégal pepper, or djar. Djar pods are added prior to the roasting and grinding process. Cloves are sometimes added as well.

    The drink is served with sugar (no cream), and tasters have described the resulting brew as intense, fiery, aromatic, and even medicinal. Herbalists the world over swear by the positive health benefits of djar. Some even claim it to be an aphrodisiac. We’ll let you decide.

    Café de Olla

    “Coffee of the pot” is the Spanish translation of this beverage found in Mexico. High-altitude Mexican coffee grounds are traditionally brewed in a clay pot with two of coffee’s best friends flavor-wise: sticks of cinnamon and a hunk of piloncillo. Piloncillo is the raw form of brown cane sugar. What’s not to like?

    If you live in or near any sizable town, your local mercado español should stock Mexican cinnamon sticks and the raw brown sugar cones if you’re up for trying to make this at home. Click here for a recipe:

    Kopi Gu You

    Singapore is home to this traditional beverage, which translates to “coffee with butter.” You may be familiar with the bullet-proof coffee craze gripping health nuts over the last several years. Folks in Singapore have been adding grass-fed butter and a splash of sweetened condensed milk to strong black coffee for centuries. Connoisseurs have described the taste as reminiscent of salted caramel, nutty with a flavor much like toffee.

    Though it may be visually off-putting for some, the oily layer floating on the top is not a turn-off to me. I have been adding coconut oil to my coffee for quite a while as a trendy nutrition boost. Grass-fed butter can be purchased in most high-end grocery stores.

    Sign me up for a cup of butter coffee!


    The world is becoming smaller and smaller. As large cities become more diverse and multi-cultural, it is easier each year to try authentic and unique coffee drinks from around the world. Amazon will even bring ingredients from your country of choice right to your door!

    Have you tried something new and bizarre in, on, or with your coffee? Tell us about it!



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