Bird poop coffee is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you decide what to drink in the morning. However, after elephant dung coffee and civet coffee, yet another poop coffee has come on the market, so these seemingly disgusting drinks may actually be more popular than many people would believe. In fact, these coffees can be quite expensive, and Jacu bird coffee is the rarest, with a limited amount available, making it potentially the most expensive coffee in the world. Unlike other alternative coffee options like civet cat coffee, there is not yet an alternative market around it.
Jacu is the name that is given to the Guan family of birds that originate from the forests of Latin America. The main diet of the Jacu bird is the ripest coffee cherries. During the digestion process, only the flesh is digested fully, with the coffee pits only partially digested, which results in the coffee beans’ important compounds being left intact. Since these birds have a vegetarian diet, their poop does not become contaminated by animal proteins. The coffee beans that they poop are some of the most prized in the world, with a 4oz bag selling for more than $100 at a time.
Jacu coffee or guano coffee is a robust, sweet coffee that has slightly more acidity to it compared to traditional coffee. These coffee beans produce a milder cup of coffee with a dry fragrance, characterized with a delicate flavor of hazelnut and notes of spices and lemon.
Origins of Jacu Bird Coffee
In the Pedra Azul foothills, coffee farmer Henrique Sloper de Araujo spotted the wild Jacu birds eating fruit from his coffee trees and immediately felt despair. No doubt, he thought, the organic farming strategies in practice on his 740-acre coffee growing estate Camocim, located just outside of the Pedra Azul National Park, were attracting these birds to come in and get their next meal from the abundance of organic, pesticide-free coffee cherries growing.
But Sloper then had an idea, having previously visited Indonesia, where kopi luwak - coffee that is extracted from the treated poop of coffee cherries by the civet cat - had become famous and popular for its high price and unique taste. Maybe, he thought, there would be something in all the droppings that the jacu bird was leaving on his farm.
In 2006, the first jacu bird coffee was produced using grains that had been hand-picked from the birds’ poop before being thoroughly washed and roasted. Today, this coffee has become one of the most expensive types of coffee worldwide, selling for an average of $110 for just 4.5oz. It’s sold in Harrods in England, and Alain Ducasse, the prominent French chef, is a fan of it.
About the Jacu Bird
The Jacu is a bird that looks similar to a pheasant. It has a distinctive loo with a bright red decolletage and is currently a protected bird in Brazil. They are wild forest birds that were endangered by the country’s incentives for deforestation between 2000 and 2006 when Brazil destroyed forest land around the size of Greece. Today, there is a Jacu sanctuary located near the Camocim estate.
These birds could be described as coffee connoisseurs. They will only choose the ripest coffee fruits to eat. Once digested, this coffee has a distinctive nutty flavor and an aniseed aftertaste. Along with this, the vegetarian diet of the Jacu bird has an important part to play in the overall flavor and taste of the coffee. Some batches have notes of truffles and apricot seeds, while others have wild berry flavors, depending on what else has been consumed by the bird. The typical harvest for this coffee runs from April to October, and there are lots of Jacu bird sightings on the estate around this time of year. The workers go out to collect the bird droppings before washing, de-husking, and roasting them.
What is Animal Poop Coffee and Why is it Popular?
Animal poop coffee refers to any kind of coffee bean that has been first fermented in the digestive system of an animal before being pooped out before roasting. Along with the Jacu bird, there are other animals that eat coffee beans, before they are collected from the animal’s poop, washed, de-husked, roasted, and turned into unique coffee.
Many animals will eat coffee cherries. This is because they are succulent, luscious, and sweet, making them a tasty meal or treat for lots of both vegetarian and omnivorous animals. As the coffee cherries are digested after eating, the pulp is broken down and absorbed by the animal. However, the husk, or the outer skin of the coffee bean is not digested, meaning that it is passed directly through the animal’s digestive system, ending up in its poop. The beans are then collected from the poop, thoroughly washed several times, and processed in a similar way to other coffee beans.
During the post-harvest process, every type of coffee in the world will be fermented in some way. Along with this, there are certain specialty types of fermented coffees that go through a second fermentation process to add more distinct aromas and flavors to the beans. What makes animal poop coffee different and sets it apart from the rest is that the beans are fermented within the digestive system of a living animal. The digestion process is simple: a large number of enzymes will naturally break down the proteins, carbohydrates and fats into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and used by the body.
How an Animal’s Digestive Process Changes the Coffee
Inside the animal’s digestive tract, the digestive juices penetrate through the husk and into the coffee bean. From here, there are enzymes that will break down the chemical compounds and proteins present in the bean. Byproducts are emitted from the bean and absorbed by the animal, which alters the chemical composition of the bean but otherwise does not make any changes to its external structure.
Along with this, there are also bacteria present in the animal’s intestine, known as intestinal flora, that play a key role in the chemical modification of the coffee. Most mammals are lacking in the enzymes that are needed to degrade molecules known as protein-tannin complexes. You may already be familiar with these if you have ever noticed that your teeth are a little stained from drinking too much coffee or other dark beverages like red wine or tea. However, these complexes can be digested by a small number of animals, like the civet cat, which overall reduces the tannin content of some animal poop coffees.
Some other ways that the digestion process of an animal affects the coffee include:
Reduced caffeine content – many animal poop coffees do not have as much caffeine compared to traditional coffee, while still offering a smooth and natural boost of energy.
Easier digestion: Many of the compounds that human bodies will find difficult to handle will have already been broken down by the digestive system of the animal, which makes these coffees easier on your digestive system as a result.
Other health benefits: Many animal poop coffees have various health benefits including brain-boosting, immune-system boosting, and energy-boosting perks.
Is It Safe to Drink Animal Poop Coffee?
While the thought of consuming something that has been previously pooped out by an animal might initially make your stomach turn, the good news is that animal poop coffee is completely safe to drink and is actually healthier than any other type of coffee on the market for many reasons. In Southeast Asia, people have been drinking kopi luwak, which is coffee made from beans that have been digested and pooped out by the civet cat, for centuries without any issues.
You can be assured that when you get any kind of animal poop coffee, the beans will have been washed thoroughly multiple times to ensure that any fecal residue is completely removed. Along with this, they will also be sun-dried after washing for several days, allowing the heat and sunlight’s ultraviolet rays to kill any harmful pathogens that may have been missed during the cleaning process. After this, the beans are heated up even further during the process of roasting, which is performed at temperatures that are so high it is impossible for any bacteria to survive them.
How Much Is Animal Poop Coffee?
While Jacu bird coffee is some of the most expensive in the world at over $100 for a small bag, the price of animal poop coffee depends on several factors including supply and demand, annual yields, competition and more. All animal poop coffees are in short supply due to the way that they are made; however, the growing demand for this type of coffee is pushing the prices up. Some animal poop coffees including the Jacu bird coffee have been discovered quite recently, meaning that there is not yet any competition to bring the prices down.
While it might seem like a very unconventional way of making coffee, Jacu bird coffee is a unique, and even beneficial way to enjoy your favorite drink.