One of the world’s most expensive and sought-after coffee varieties is actually harvested from the droppings of the jacu, a large, black, turkey-like bird whose digestive system brings out the aroma of the coffee beans.
When Henrique Sloper, the owner of the Camocim coffee farm in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo, first saw his coffee plantation overrun by jacu birds, he panicked, not knowing that the birds would soon become a sort of business partner. He called environmental protection agencies, but they didn’t know what to do and suggested that the farm introduce some natural predators for the large birds. But that was difficult to do, especially with a bird as large as the jacu, so, in the end, Sloper decided to adopt the old ‘if you can’t beat them, join them‘ mantra, and soon discovered that the bird invasion had been a blessing in disguise.
If you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, you are probably familiar with kopi luwak, the world’s most expensive and exclusive coffee. It is harvested from the feces of Asian palm civets and it has become internationally famous for its smoothness and aroma. Sloper knew this very well, and because the jacu birds on his farm were there to stay, he decided to create his own kopi luwak…
Convincing farm workers that they had to harvest bird poop instead of coffee beans took a while, but after getting over this hurdle as well as two years of trial and error, Comocim Farm became the only one in the world to produce coffee from the droppings of the jacu bird. And not just any coffee either, but one of the most sought-after varieties in the world.
Over time, Henrique Sloper discovered that the jacu bird’s digestive system was nothing short of extraordinary. Although it swallowed and excreted the coffee beans perfectly whole, the birds’ digestion eliminated almost all of the caffeine in the beans as well as the need for fermentation. Furthermore, the bird seemed to have impeccable taste in coffee, consuming only the ripest beans on the plantation, which pretty much ensured that the coffee harvested from its droppings was of the highest quality.
Brazil’s Espirito Santo state is the world’s fourth coffee producer, but Camocim Farm is the only one that uses jacu droppings. It has been selling it for about a decade now, and the variety is currently considered one of the most expensive. It is very popular in countries like France, Japan, and in the UK, where luxury department store Harrods is selling it for 1,400 pounds ($1,700) per kilogram.
Described as fruitier and more acidic than most other coffee varieties, the coffee processed from the droppings of jacu bird droppings is so exclusive that it is only produced when there is a specific demand from a buyer. After being harvested, the droppings are dried, cleaned, and frozen until processing.