This is no time for trembling hands. Sitting in front of me on a table in the brasserie on the second floor of Peter Jones in London's Sloane Square is a shot of espresso in a dainty glass cup. If it were any old espresso, the procedure would be simple: tip it into the mouth with an Italianate flick of the wrist and wait for the feisty fluid to start the heart and the day. But this mouthful of coffee costs £50. The patience and taste buds of the oenophile are required, plus the steady nerves of a gunslinger.
What can explain this hefty price tag, in a store that prides itself on never knowingly being undersold, and at a time when the nation is in the midst of a credit crunch? Could it be a marketing gimmick intended to brew up publicity? The reason is apparently that Caffe Raro was created by De Longhi from two of the rarest coffee beans in the world. The first is the much sought after Jamaican Blue Mountain, but it is the second that gives this drink its special piquancy. Kupi Luwak beans come from Indonesia and are harvested by civets, the indigenous wild cat. These clever felines sniff out the choicest berries, digest the flesh, and pass out the bean in the way that nature intended. To call this the cat's whiskers of coffee would be a profound understatement.