If an animal chews, spits, or digests a coffee bean before it is roasted should it automatically cost more? Does the digestive track of a palm civet have a King Midas touch or does the saliva of a monkey actually have a positive effect on the taste of the coffee?
To many, Kopi Luwak is notorious as the most expensive coffee in the world. This reigns true at Coffee and Tea Ltd. in Linden Hills where Jim Cone sells Kopi Luwak for $420 a pound. Cone usually sells the coffee brewed for $10 a cup or in small quantities, a quarter pound or less. This rare brew is the most popular of all animal processed coffees. The coffee is eaten and partially digested by a palm civet, a small cat-like mammal. Cone uses a direct contact on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia to bring in the coffee. “I’m happy with it because of its authenticity,” says Cone. He makes sure that the coffee he gets is 100% Arabica beans rather than Robusta beans, a lower grade of coffee. The coffee is a heavy, full-bodied cup that has a prominent spice and lingering aftertaste.
Another animal processed coffee, known as Monkey Parchment, was brought to the United States for the first time by Paradise Roasters in Anoka, MN. The coffee is processed by rhesus monkeys in Chikmagalur, India (southeast of Goa). The monkeys eat sweet coffee cherries and spit out the seeds, which are collected by people who dry and process the beans. The monkeys eat the fruit of the coffee bean leaving the parchment, a thin layer of mucilage, on the bean. This is different from the Kopi Luwak where the parchment is digested by the palm civet. “The un-roasted coffee has a grayish tint with visible teeth marks on a fair number of beans,” says Adam Palmer of Paradise Roasters. The coffee is sold for $320 a pound and is sold in four-ounce packages. The cup is full-bodied, sweet, and tastes of unsweetened cocoa powder with an aftertaste that lingers like the Kopi Luwak. Due to its popularity, Paradise Roasters plans to bring in the coffee again this year.
For those who want something even more exotic than civet or monkey processed coffee, you have to roast it yourself. Aaron Boothe of Duluth has roasted Jacu Bird coffee from Brazil in a modified, computer-controlled popcorn popper located in a lab at the University of Minnesota Duluth. This coffee passes through the digestive tract of the jacu bird, but unlike Kopi Luwak, it remains in the parchment, like Monkey Parchment. Sweet Maria’s, a green coffee bean supplier for home roasters, made this variety available to coffee nerds like Boothe who roast at home. Green, the cheapest of the animal processed coffee, costs a mere $13.60 a pound. The cup has a heavy body, with a sweet nuttiness.