We all know coffee makes us poop, but have you ever tried coffeefrom poop? Read about some of the curious ways we utilize animal digestive systems to create some of the most unique coffee roasts.
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By Hannah Ege
Last updated: December 12, 2022
Coffee aficionados around the world like to exhaust all the possibilities when trying to brew the best cup of coffee. And some of them don’t like to be limited by the usual coffee processing methods when choosing their beans.
Some may even want to involve the digestive system of animals.
The concept of poop coffee is surrounded by big hype and controversy. Although the beans are first eaten and pooped out by these animals, the coffee is safe to consume because of the processing that follows.
You’ve probably heard of Kopi Luwak coffee which is popular in Indonesia, but did you know that it’s not the only coffee that involves the digestive system of the animals in the processing?
There is also bat poop coffee, elephant, bird, and monkey poop coffee. And the main things they have in common are the unique flavor profile and a hefty price tag.
Do all these animals digest the bean? What’s special about these coffees and what do they taste like? And more importantly, are they worth the high price point?
What Happens To The Coffee?
Although the idea of having your coffee beans digested by an animal before they make their way into your cup might sound disturbing, most of the ways that the beans are affected during this process are positive.
The involvement of the animal’s digestion changes the chemical composition of coffee. While the animals eat the sweet pulp of the coffee cherries, the beans are left whole and can still be used.
The digestive enzymes change the taste of the coffee, and reduce the acidity and bitterness, resulting in a milder, more mellow, and more delicate taste profile.
The animals are picky with their coffee and only choose the best, juiciest, and biggest coffee cherries that make up the selection of the highest quality coffee beans. Naturally selected.
Is Drinking Poop Coffee Safe?
While drinking coffee that has been sourced from animal poop doesn’t sound like the best idea and the contamination concerns come to mind, drinking animal poop coffee is completely safe.
Even though the coffee cherries have been eaten and digested, the beans themselves are not affected. Also, there are many steps that follow after the coffee beans are collected from the poop.
They still need to be washed, dried, processed, roasted at high temperatures, and finally brewed with near-boiling water.
So by that point, all the traces of poop and bacteria are long gone.
Kopi Luwak (Cat Poop Coffee)
The most famous poop coffee around the world is the one sourced from Asian palm civet in Indonesia, also known as Kopi Luwak. This coffee dates back to the 18th century when the Dutch introduced coffee harvesting to Indonesia and the coffee boom started happening around the world.
The problem was that all the coffee produced in Indonesia had to be exported to Europe. To access the beans, the locals had to get creative and started collecting the coffee beans digested (and pooped out) by the wild civets.
While this coffee is still being produced, it is not out of necessity anymore but because of the popular demand from the Western world created by the unique story about the coffee’s production.
Today, Kopi Luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world as well as one of the biggest attractions in Bali, generating a lot of income from visiting tourists. So with the powerful coffee production story, the Indonesians managed to turn poop into gold.
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They deserve credit for that!
How Is It Made?
Even though it’s hard to believe that someone would bother to pick up the coffee cherries out of the poop of a wild Asian palm civet, there is a reason for the exclusivity of this expensive coffee.
The first step in this unique coffee production happens when the civet eats the coffee cherries. The civet is a picky eater and only chooses the best, biggest, and ripest coffee cherries.
This means that when the beans are collected, because of the civet’s careful selection, the cat poop coffee is made out of the best coffee beans.
During the digestion process, the civet processes the skin and the pulp of the cherry, but the coffee bean is left intact as it goes through the fermentation process.
Once the cat poop coffee is collected, it is then harvested, washed, dried, sorted, and roasted before making its way into your cup.
Hard To Stomach Facts About Kopi Luwak
While the theory behind the wild civets’ natural coffee selection sounds nice, the reality is a lot crappier than that.
The truth is that because of the novelty behind the story and the high demand coming from the Western world, the civets are held captive caged in terrible and unhygienic conditions, and treated like machines for coffee production rather than wild animals.
Rather than providing a well-balanced diet for the civets, they are forced to only eat coffee cherries, making them malnourished. Additionally, they are often fed inferior or Robusta beans, which defeats the whole purpose of sourcing the coffee from cat poop.
The whole Kopi Luwak industry has departed from its original purpose of providing the best coffee and the focus has shifted from making coffee to making money.
Additionally, lots of farmers don’t even bother with the civets and sell normal beans as Kopi Luwak. It is estimated that 80% of Luwak coffee being sold today is fake.
What Does It Taste Like?
If even after all that, you’re interested in civet coffee and want to know what it tastes like, you can expect it to be exceptionally smooth, nutty, earthy, and lacking any bitterness.
While it’s believed to be of exceptional quality, some experts say that it tastes below average and overly earthy as well as arguing that today, you can get a much better specialty coffee at a better price.
Since the tradition started, coffee production has developed significantly and it can be argued that we can source and produce much better coffee beans than Luwak can.
How Much Does Kopi Luwak Cost?
Despite the controversy around animal cruelty and the questionable quality of the coffee, Kopi Luwak remains one of the most expensive coffees in the world. You can expect to pay around $600 per pound of cat poop coffee.
In order to ensure you’re not supporting animal cruelty, we suggest that you source Kopi Luwak coffee from one of the certified sustainable farms that keep the palm civet in the wild.
Still, with not-so-strict control systems in place, it’s hard to establish where your civet coffee is coming from, and whether it even comes from the cat poop at all.
Elephant Poop Coffee
While Kopi Luwak is one of the most popular poop coffees, it’s not the only one.
Elephant poop coffee, produced by Black Ivory Coffee Company in Chiang Saen in Northern Thailand is similar to Kopi Luwak in the way it’s made – only that the elephant coffee is not abusive.
That makes the poop coffee much easier to swallow.
How Is It Made?
Elephant poop coffee, in contrast to civet coffee, goes through a controlled, ethically-conscious process. It starts with Arabica cherries that are grown at 1500 meters above sea level. The high altitude means that the coffee beans are already high-quality.
The cherries are picked and brought to the elephants. Unlike the civets, the elephants still maintain a healthy varied diet that ensures that the coffee is mixed with other food.
After the digestion process, the farmers then collect the beans from the droppings before processing them further.
However ethical, this is not an efficient process and up to 33 pounds of coffee beans make 1 pound of Black Ivory Coffee, making it one of the rarest coffees, priced at around $1000 per pound.
The coffee is most commonly found at five-star luxury hotels in Asia and the Middle East and the profits made from the coffee go to elephant conservation.
What Does It Taste Like?
This expensive coffee sourced from elephant poop tastes floral, and chocolatey, with hints of malt, spice, leather, cherry, and even grass. The coffee is soft and mellow, more like tea, without any harsh bitterness.
While it is often compared to civet coffee, the farmers making Black Ivory Coffee claim that it is better. They attribute it mainly to the fact that, unlike civets, elephants are herbivores, and the greens from their diet help with the fermentation process, making the coffee smoother and removing all the bitterness.
Monkey Poop Coffee
Another bizarre coffee that is processed with the help of animal digestion is monkey coffee produced in Chikmagalur, India. The area has a good climate and thriving coffee production.
The Rhesus monkeys are the species that live close to the plantations and, like other animals from this list, also like to snack on juicy coffee cherries.
How Is It Made?
Even though it’s commonly known as monkey poop coffee, this time, there is no poop involved in the production. Finally!
In this case, the monkeys chew on the cherries and then spit them out, so they are partially digested by their saliva.
As with the civet coffee, the monkeys also pick the ripest, sweetest, highest-quality cherries, and this is why the coffee is such good quality.
After the beans have been harvested, they go through the usual process of being washed, processed, and dried. Interestingly, the beans partially digested by the monkeys acquire a grey color, rather than the usual green.
What Does It Taste Like?
The coffee processed with the help of monkey saliva has a heavy body, pleasant acidity, and little bitterness.
The beans have quite a diverse taste profile with notes of citrus, nuts, chocolate, and prominent vanilla. These delicate flavors are best enjoyed when prepared in a pour-over or an Aeropress.
A little bit more affordable, priced at $320 per pound, this coffee is still very rare and there are less than 100 pounds available for purchase for an entire year. That explains why a cup can cost you around $10.
Bat Poop Coffee
Similarly to monkey poop coffee, the bats don’t poop out the coffee beans either. Instead, they nibble on the cherries and the processing method of the coffee bean starts in the mouth with their saliva.
How Is It Made?
Artibeus jamaicensis, the species of bats in the forest around Coffea Diversa Coffee Garden in the south of Costa Rica, start their unique coffee processing contribution by tearing up the outer skin of the cherry and licking the sweet pulp.
The half-eaten cherries are then left exposed, affected by the digestive acids of the bats, and left on the plant to dry before being processed further.
Apart from Costa Rica, bat coffee is also produced in Madagascar and is considered an African answer to Kopi Luwak. The farmers in Madagascar produced two tonnes of coffee this year and aim for 20 tonnes in 2021.
The beans are then sold to high-end restaurants and hotels with big demand coming from Japan.
What Does It Taste Like?
Bat coffee is fruity and floral but also smooth and sweet. It also has a pleasant aftertaste and a delicate acidity which enhances the flavor profile.
As with other poop coffees, bat coffee is also hard to get but is one of the more affordable ones from the list, priced at around $230 per pound.
Bird Poop Coffee
The discovery of bird poop coffee is accompanied by an interesting story that happened to Henrique Sloper in Camocim, Brazil in 2009. Henrique was dedicated to producing high-quality, organic, sustainably-grown coffee on his farm.
One day, he woke up and saw Jacu birds feasting on his coffee plantations. He was surprised that other farms weren’t affected and the birds only desired his cherries. The proof that the birds only pick coffee of the best quality.
How Is It Made?
Back to the coffee that involves the whole digestion process of the animal, the Jacu birds eat the cherries, and then the coffee is collected from their droppings.
Unlike the Asian palm civet with a restricted coffee cherry diet in captivity, the birds have a normal well-balanced menu. Because they are exclusively vegetarian, with the help of the greens in their digestive tract, the coffee beans come out even more refined.
What Does It Taste Like?
The taste of Jacu bird coffee is often compared to honey-processed coffee. It has a full body, a mild pleasant aftertaste, and is delicately balanced.
When tasting the coffee made with the help of Jacu birds, expect a nutty, dusty sweetness enhanced with an acidic base with flavor notes of brown bread, molasses, milk chocolate, and even star anise.
The digestion done by the bird enhances flavor, but also the price. The beans are sold for $330 per pound, which is seven times the price of the original beans from Henrique Sloper’s farm.
What’s Up With The Price?
Apart from animal droppings and saliva, one of the things that these coffees have in common is the steep price. Because the beans are very expensive, it’s easy to assume that they must be of exceptional quality and superior taste.
While they are believed to be premium since the animals only tend to pick the best coffee cherries, most of their high price can be attributed to the limited availability.
The coffee is so expensive because the animals only produce a low yield and they cannot be forced to produce more.
The exclusivity and the high price of poop coffee are where most of its problems and controversy stem from. It is why they try to produce as much Kopi Luwak as possible, in turn enslaving the palm civet for coffee farming.
The cat poop coffee also opens a world of possibilities for the scammers, selling ordinary beans as Kopi Luwak.
Is It Worth The Hype?
Scammers aside, when you find a bag of genuine poop coffee, should you buy some? Are the people who tried it claiming that it’s so good because it is true or because they’ve just paid $300 for it?
There are some mixed reviews on whether the poop coffee is also the best coffee you can get your hands on.
If done naturally in the wild and if the animals look for the cherries themselves, there is no doubt that they’ll pick the best ones, but with today’s advanced coffee harvesting techniques, there is an argument that we are able to produce better coffee than the civet can find.
Some experts also say that the lack of acidity, the typical feature of Kopi Luwak as well as some of the other coffees, is actually a negative rather than a positive attribute.
Acidity is often the key element in specialty coffee that enhances the flavor notes and brings out the brightness. So the lack of it makes the coffee flat and uninteresting.
Cutting The Crap
Apart from the high price tag, what animal-processed coffees have in common are novelty, less bitterness, less acidity, and rarity because of the high demand and low production rate.
In most cases, animals are in charge of picking out the best coffee cherries they can find. That’s unless they are caged and force-fed inferior beans, as is the case for Kopi Luwak.
With so much great specialty coffee out there like Panama Gesha, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, and many others, we don’t think it’s the taste profile that’s going to be the selling point of Kopi Luwak or bird coffee.
What makes this coffee unique is the story behind this production and the crazy idea of sourcing the coffee beans from animal droppings. If you get a chance to try a cup of Kopi Luwak or elephant coffee when visiting the countries where they are produced, go for it.
But sourcing the coffee online and paying hundreds of dollars for a pound of beans, that also have a big chance of not being genuine? We’re not that keen.
Whether you’re drinking Kopi Luwak coffee or your favorite single-origin brew, make sure you..
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