“Cat Poop Coffee” Welcoming Ceremony


Welcome Suzanne Edwards and family!

Suzanne arrived last week with her mom, Liz, and her dad, Jeremy.  They arrived late Wednesday night and showed up on the 2nd floor of the Tongren Hospital bright and early Thursday morning.

Now that is what I call dedication 🙂

Suzanne and her lovely parents made their entrance into the 2nd floor rehab room accompanied by a swarm of doctors, PT’s and, naturally, Dr. Zhu Hui. The English translator who has been hired to help Suzanne and her family was not yet on the scene, so they all came directly over to me and asked that I serve as translator for the day.

All the Chinese patients’ eyes were glued on the exotic new foreign patient.  If you have not gathered from my previous blogs, foreigners in Kunming, and especially South Kunming where we live, are a pretty rare sight.  Not to mention a pretty foreign patient like Suzanne in a wheelchair!   There are now three foreigners in the Kunming walking program.

I was showing Suzanne and her family around the rehab facility when Dr. Zhu asked me to help Suzanne with medical translation for her “ASIA” exam, which is a standardised test to determine one’s level of spinal cord injury. I have to say I was pretty relieved to have brushed up on my medical Chinese the prior week.

After the ASIA test and helping Suzanne get through her medical history for Dr. Zhu’s records, the foreigners in the program were invited to a very special coffee welcoming celebration. Now, what I’m about to describe to you is completely true and definitely one of the strangest welcoming parties I’ve ever attended.

Dr. Zhu invited us over to the kitchen area on the second floor rehabilitation room for a welcoming ceremony. It is pretty much understood in China that most Westerners love coffee so, whenever Yunnan locals have the chance to serve coffee produced right here in China, naturally the opportunity is not easily passed up.

Dr. Zhu explained to us that the celebration coffee on offer for us was “made right here in Yunnan province” …. by cats!

We turned to one another other with puzzled expressions, wondering what a cat has to do with making coffee?

Dr. Zhu then went on to explain that there are very special Asian Palm Civets (essentially they look like Asian rodents but are related to the cat species) who are fed locally-grown coffee beans. Once again, we looked at each other but now with  unsettled feelings in our stomachs, perhaps sensing what might come next.

… Wait for it … yes, the coffee beans are eaten by the cats and then excreted, because these cats cannot digest the coffee beans properly.  The undigested and excreted coffee beans are then put through some kind of “purification process” before being ground up to make coffee.  Producers of such coffee beans argue that the process improves the coffee through two mechanisms — selection and digestion. Go figure!   Digestive juices of cats may improve the flavor of coffee beans for some people … but not for me!

Maybe no surprise then that the actual labeling on the package of this coffee, in Chinese and English, is “Cat Poop Coffee.”

I have to say the Edwards family were great sports, and we  dutifully drank our cat poop coffee! I could only think to myself … Wow, this is a first!  And as I do not have many “firsts” these days, well … Welcome to Kunming, Suzanne, Liz and Jeremy.

Civet1 Civet2 Civet3

I case you might think I’m making any of this up, check out this Wikipedia page and can see for yourself!


Now here’s a real kicker … one would think that this type of coffee would be rather inexpensive, but no, it is actually the most expensive coffee in the whole world. Cat Poop Coffee retails for US$700 per kilogram!!!

Indeed, this “coffee” has become so popular in China that there are now specialised coffee shops opening up all over Shanghai and now moving down south that devote their shops solely to “cat poop coffee.”

Care for a caramel cat poop machiato?

11-6-2013 3-15-05 AM

On an unrelated note … my dad left for Holland today to attend an international post-surgical pain research conference.  Kunming – Beijing – Amsterdam.  Good thing he’s not bothered by jet lag!


My neck pain and shoulder pain have been getting progressively worse over the last few weeks, to the point where my productive at-screen day has been reduced to just two or three hours. My Japanaese electro-acupuncturist/masseuse, Eriko, can feel hard little balls on the left and right side of my recent surgical scar, which are presumably hardened scar tissue from the surgery. When she presses on these spots, I get a violent shooting pain down my right neck over to my right shoulder and into my scapula followed by shooting pains down my right arm. We hypothesize that several muscles must have healed incorrectly after the surgery and are now pushing on major peripheral nerves.

So my Dad has temporarily set aside regenerative medicine as he main research focus in favor of the neuroscience of pain, which is, of course, a major life quality issue for a large percentage of the SCI population, not to mention for cancer therapy survivors and millions of others.  Indeed, chronic pain is reported to affect as many as 25% of the American population.  So pain is a global issue, but the neuroscience of pain is a field of its own.  Thus my Dad has his work cut out for him!

Meanwhile, I’m working several times a week with my acupuncturist, Ericko, and I think we’re making slow progress, but I will be very excited to see what my Dad brings back from the IASP conference Holland.

For blog readers interested in pain for any reason, you might like ot have a look at the IASP website …


I posted about a month and a half ago that I was about to start the China SCI lithium protocol for neuropathic pain. We are still working with the Kunming Medical School to obtain the reagents needed to test my blood serum lithium levels. However, the reagents still have not arrived!  So, when my Dad completes his second pain tour in Europe at the end of this week, he’s going to bring the lithium reagents back with him so that we can get on with this protocol in December.

Unfortunately, the severe neck pain + the persistent neuropathic pain + cripplng allodynia pretty much knock me on my butt most days, so right now I am only able to go to the gym 3 (or at most 4) days a week. Also, I’m not walking yet even though my new German knee brace works wonderfully.  The reason is that when I’m standing in the walking frame and attempt to walk, I have to push down with my elbows and shoulders in order to support and balance my upper body.  But pushing down with my elbows naturally forces all the pressure into my neck, and the shooting pain immediately forces me to sit down right away.

With that said, every day we are working on new solutions to chronic pain.

I remain confident that one day something we try will work!


5 responses »

  1. Well, THIS is SUCH an Ali story!! 🙂 You have the craziest things happen to you, and this is one experience of which I am not envious! I cannot imagine the reactions of Suzanne & her family after having just arrived in the country. I am praying that your dad’s trip to the conference will be fruitful. Love you tons!

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