You may not think that ‘gourmet’ or high-quality coffee is monkey business, but what would you say if you found out that some of the world’s best and most expensive coffee comes from a monkey’s ‘business,’ er, their poop?
“Kopi Luwak” coffee is made from berries that have passed through the digestive system of a special type of Indonesian monkey. The coffee berries (that grow on shrubs) are eaten by the animals and passes through their system without being digested. Given the lengthy process, including the job of having to go through monkey dung to gather the undigested coffee berries, only around 500 pounds are harvested every year. That, and given its unique taste, has made Kopi Luwak the most expensive (around US $300 a pound) and popular gourmet coffee in the world – until now.
Recently, cafés around the world have been buzzing about a new type of Kopi Luwak coffee, in this case from the droppings of a small, cat-like mammal called a civet. Often called "cat poo coffee,” it is definitely worth more than a cat’s droppings at US $50 a cup and around $340 to $400 a pound! Then there is coffee made from the dung of barking deer in Southeast Asia. And the latest? Coffee beans that have been chewed and spat out by Rhesus monkeys in the distant jungles of India. Only very small quantities are available at this point, and they cost a monkey arm and a leg!
From The Ground Up
Coffee was first discovered in the East African country of Ethiopia around 1,000 AD. Legend has it that an Ethiopian goatherd found his goats dancing around a shrub with bright red cherries and realized that the cherries were causing that behavior after he tried them himself. He took the beans to a local Muslim monastery and the monks started using them to help stay awake during long hours of prayer. They in turn shared it with other monasteries in the region.
By the 16th century, coffee had found its way to the rest of the Middle East, Persia and Africa, and then to Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Initially, people mashed up the red coffee berries and mixed them with fatty meat like bacon to make an energy bar. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the practice of roasting and brewing coffee, similar to how we do it today, started in the Arabian Peninsula. Initially, the orthodox Muslim priests prohibited the drinking of coffee because of its exciting effects. But the widespread popularity of the drink resulted in the overturn of the ban. Soon, coffee was here to stay.
Today, we pour about 1.6 billion cups of coffee a day around the world! The United States is the single biggest drinker of coffee in the world, having about 45 percent of that (700 million cups a day). However, it’s the people in Finland, Sweden and Norway who are the top coffee drinkers per person per year.
And gourmet coffee sales are continuing to increase steadily by 20 percent every year, and is the biggest export for countries like Brazil, the largest coffee exporting nation, followed by Vietnam and Indonesia.
So although coffee may sometimes be a monkey’s business, it is definitely not a joke.