Jacu Bird Coffee is one of the rarest and most expensive types of coffee in the world. It is made from coffee cherries that are ingested, digested, and excreted by jacu birds.
At around 50 hectares, the Camocim Estate is one of the smallest coffee plantations in Brazil, but it can still make a good profit thanks to a very unique and sought-after type of coffee. It all started in the early 2000s when Henrique Sloper de Araújo woke up to find that his precious plantations had been overrun by jacu birds, an endangered pheasant-like bird species that was protected in Brazil. They weren’t known to be fans of coffee cherry, but they seemed to love de Araújo’s organic coffee. But they would repay him in the most unusual way for the food.
Photo: TeeFarm / Pixabay
At first, Henrique Sloper de Araújo was desperate to evict the birds from his plantation and even called the environmental police, but there was nothing anyone could do to help. The bird was protected by law so it couldn’t really hurt her in any way. But then a light bulb went on in his head and the despair turned into excitement.
Sloper had been a keen surfer in his youth, and his pursuit of waves to ride had once brought him to Indonesia, where he met Kopi Luwak, one of the world’s most expensive coffees made from coffee beans harvested from the feces of Indonesian civets. This gave the landowner an idea. If Indonesians could harvest coffee cherries from the droppings of civets, he could do the same with the droppings of jacu birds.
“I realized I could try something similar with the Camocim and the Jacu bird, but developing the idea was only half the battle,” de Araújo told Modern Farmer. “The real challenge was convincing my coffee pickers that they had to look for bird shit instead of berries.”
Apparently, Sloper had to turn the hunt for jacu bird droppings into a treasure hunt for the workers to give them financial incentives to find a certain amount of discarded coffee beans. There was no other way to change her mind.
However, collecting the jacu bird droppings was only the beginning of a very arduous process. The coffee cherries then had to be extracted from the poop by hand, washed and peeled from their protective membranes. It is this meticulous work that makes Jacu bird coffee significantly more expensive than other types of coffee, but it’s not the only one.
Henrique Sloper de Araújo attributes the great taste of his gourmet coffee to the Jacu birds, as they only eat the best, ripe coffee cherries they can find, which he has observed firsthand.
“I watched with my mouth open from my living room as the jacu bird picked only the ripe berries, leaving more than half the grapes, even those that looked perfect to the human eye,” said the owner of Camocim Estate.
In contrast to Kopi Luwak coffee, which is digested by Indonesian civets, beans move faster through the digestive system of Jacu birds and are not broken down by animal proteins or stomach acids. The resulting cherries are roasted, and the brew from them is said to have a unique, nutty flavor with nuances of sweet aniseed.
Because of its quality and scarcity, Jacu bird coffee is one of the most expensive types of coffee in the world, costing around $ 1,000 per kilogram.