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From VIP entrances in Versace to service entrances in my apron

  • Julie Anne Rhodes

Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice

While on holiday, I was reading a book set in Ethiopia that happened to have a passage about an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed his goats appeared to have more energy after eating certain berries, and so the coffee trade was born. Little did I know I was about to get an education on Balinese coffee and what makes it unique.

They serve their Bali coffee Luwak with sugar and spice, and everything nice, but drinking it still felt a little like a scene straight from fear factor.

Cinnamon and sugar

Sugar and spice

Although, in such gorgeous surroundings you might think you were on the set of Survivor or The Amazing Race instead. A spice plantation in central Bali overlooking picturesque rice paddies to be precise.

Balinese spice plantation

Balinese spice plantation with rice paddies beyond

I mentioned in a previous post that our day trip to Ubud got sidetracked when I made the mistake of mentioning that I was a chef. Our guide promptly hijacked us to a spice plantation. The next thing I knew, we were trekking through a flavor kingdom searching for lemongrass, chilis, vanilla, cacoa and a host of other

Lemongrass, chilis, cacoa, and vanilla growing on the spice plantation

Lemongrass, chilis, cacoa, and vanilla growing on the spice plantation

herbs and spices, in addition to exotic fruits (including my beloved Mangosteen). Half enthralled, half terrified, I was experiencing increasing heart palpatations over my knowledge of how many poisonous snakes were

Cinnamon bark drying, cinnamon sticks, and cloves

Cinnamon bark drying, cinnamon sticks, and cloves

probably lurking under the rocks, how king cobras have an affinity for rice paddies, and the vile memories of my last spice expedition in Zanzibar where I carelessly stepped on a viper who bit me twice in response. I was not in the mood for another cocktail of anti-venom, so “would you like to try our coffee?” sounded infinitely more appealing.

Civet, coffee berries, and coffee beans

Civet, coffee berries, and coffee beans

That was until we were introduced to the civets (a member of the cat family that looked more like a cross between a fox and a possum). The civets are employed to eat the berries, in turn excreting the beans which

Roasting coffee beans, grinding them, and ready for sale

Roasting coffee beans, grinding them, and ready for sale

are then washed, painstakingly roasted for hours, and ground. Charming, I was about to drink cat poop coffee that is considered a delicacy. To turn it down would be insulting, but drinking it would be an exercise in controlling both mind and gag reflex. The first cup I sipped had a few grounds floating in it and was a little bitter, so I asked for sweetener – the guide laughed and pointed to the beehive literally inches above my head.

Bee hive

Bee hive inches above my head

Hmmmmmm, at least it’s fresh, in fact probably the freshest honey I’ve ever had. Once I assessed that the bees seemed engrossed in their business, thus oblivious to me, I focussed on the view to calm my nerves.

Tatjana Rhodes enjoying Balinese coffee and tea

The view, Tatjana Rhodes, and coffee tasting

Tatjana was less inclined to partake, so she quickly grabbed the lemongrass tea. Luckily, the following cups of coffee were actually quite delicious – each with overtones of chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and ginger. Starbucks Balinese style – all I needed was a piece of cake to go with my coffee.

Valrohna Chocolate Lava Cake

Servings: 6

1/2 cup flour 1/3 cup Valrohna cocoa 1 teaspoon baking powder 6 ounces Valrohna semi-sweet chocolate, divided into 4 pieces 2/3 cup softened butter, plus extra for greasing ramekins 1/2 cup granulated sugar 3 large eggs 2 teaspoon coffee extract (or 1 1/2 tablespoons expresso) 2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting


1. Grease 4 6-ounce ramekins.

2. Mix flour, Valrohna cocoa, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

3. Melt the Valrohna chocolate and butter in a double boiler, and whisk in sugar. Pour melted chocolate into a large mixing bowl. Mix in eggs, one at a time on medium speed. Add coffee extract, and beat on high speed for 5 minutes.

4. Pour batter into prepared ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 24 hours or up to a month.

5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove ramekins from freezer, place on a baking sheet, and remove plastic wrap. Bake for 18 minutes (do not bake longer or cake will not have soft gooey chocolate center).

6. Invert ramekins onto a plate, tapping lightly to release the cake. Dust with powdered sugar.

Serving Suggestion:

Serve hot with creme Anglaise, ice cream of your choice, or whipped cream.

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