The Poop Coffee Industry: more than Kopi Luwak (Cat, Monkey, Elephant, Bat + Bird Shit Coffee)
When you hear the term “poop coffee,” questions naturally arise.
Is it just putting poop in coffee? (Short answer: No). Is poop even involved, or is it just a colour thing? (Short answer: Yes, poop is involved).
Yuck…and yet there’s a part of you, perhaps buried deep down, that really wants to try some. But it’s hard to take that leap, especially when you don’t know what the heck the stuff even is!
In this article we’ll go over what poop coffee is, some of the science behind it, what different kinds there are, and why it repeatedly shows up as some of the best coffee to buy (despite the insane price tag)!
The Science Behind ‘Coffee Beans From Poop’
There are many strange kinds of coffee out there, but by far one of the oddest has got to be coffee made from poop. What makes animal poop coffee so special? The process aside (more on that below), coffee poop from animals has usually gone through a unique, and scientific process that makes it singularly different from any other processes available.
Most people are aware of at least some of the scientific health benefits of coffee, but when it comes to animal poop coffee, there is even more science thrown into the mix. In regards to coffee that’s processed in this way: there is a unique fermentation process that takes place when a coffee bean is exposed to an animal’s digestive tract (saliva, digestive fluids, etc.).
The coffee bean is broken down and physically changed, which reduces the acidity and bitterness and makes the coffee easier on us in the long run. While this may be effective in producing some grotesquely delicious coffee, it does restrict the production flow quite a bit, which has led some to experiment with alternative options that give us similar results (1).
In fact, the effects that lead to animal poop coffee are already being recreated to some extent through scientific processes, which could help give us the coffee flavour we want at a lower cost… and without the scarring mental damage of knowing that you’re drinking something that passed through an animal’s sphincter.
NOTE: We’ll be talking a lot in this article about coffee cherries, which are the whole fruit, not just the coffee beans. A coffee cherry consists of the outer skin, an inner pulpy layer, and then two coffee beans covered in a thin layer or parchment. Check out the video below for a good visual!
Cruelty: Can You Live With Yourself?
When poop coffee, particularly Kopi Luwak was discovered by the Western world a couple hundred years ago, it was a rarity – a specialty item – something that few people had and even fewer people knew about.
Since then it has taken the coffee-drinking world by storm, simultaneously bringing a sense of awe and disgust to everyone who learns of this fascinating beverage.
This sudden spike in popularity, however, has had some pretty nasty side effects. Many animals are kept in caged captivity. Granted, some of these creatures are treated humanely, but they are captive nonetheless.
A distinct difference between an animal in the zoo, for example, and an animal being used to create something like poop coffee, is the expectation of production.
When Lily the giraffe walks out of her home at the zoo, she just needs to be there and she’s good.
Animals forcefully recruited to make poop coffee, on the other hand, are virtually animal slaves, expected to eat and poop in as large a quantity as possible, and nothing more.
Take the civet cat, for instance – the animal power behind Kopi Luwak. Many civets are captured, caged and force-fed (2) all the coffee cherries they can eat; whereas when left on their own in the wild they will only select the best, ripest ones.
In addition to this, they often only eat coffee cherries. No fruit, insects, or other natural parts of their diet are included, leading to mental instability, self-maiming, and even blood in their faeces – a sign that death is near.
The original, and more humane way to harvest animal poop coffee involves harvesting the faeces from wild animals scattered around a coffee plantation.
This method of production is the method you will want to support for your coffee. It’s not easy to find, but we’ll do our best to give you good recommendations as we go along.
The 5 main style of animal poop coffee
Here are 5 ‘shit coffees’ we’ll cover in this list:
- Civet cat coffee (kopi Luwak)
- Monkey poop coffee
- Elephant poop coffee
- Bat poop coffee
- Bird poop coffee
Buckle up. This is some pretty wild stuff…
1. Civet Cat Poop Coffee (Kopi Luwak)
The much-heralded Kopi Luwak is a specialty animal poop coffee that is generally recognized as the most expensive coffee in the world.
This coffee comes from an Indonesian palm civet, or civet cat – a small mammal belonging to the Viverridae family and found mainly in Asia, and to a lesser extent in southern Europe and Africa.
Though the original coffee produced by these creatures was discovered by Europeans in Indonesia (and is still found in many regions of that nation), it is now also produced in other areas like the Philippines and East Timor.
How is Kopi Luwak created?
First things first, civet cats like coffee cherries, and they often show up on coffee plantations for a quick snack.
During the digestion process, as the cherry moves through the digestive tract of the civet, the skin and pulp are removed, but the beans themselves are not digested. Instead they go through a unique fermentation process.
After roughly a day, the beans emerge in the excreted faeces in clumps, usually with the beans still intact (it looks like an unusually disgusting granola bar) and are harvested, washed (thank goodness!), dried, pounded to remove their skins, sorted, and then roasted.
What does Kopi Luwak taste like?
What does civet coffee taste like?
It’s nutty, earthy, and smooth, almost soft, and lacking much of the bitterness which has been lost in the process.
There can be little doubt that, privately disgusted thoughts aside, civet cat coffee delivers a very high quality cup of coffee.
Where to buy Kopi Luwak
You have to be careful when buying this stuff. As the market has grown, so have the opportunities for scammers to work the system.
Often “Kopi Luwak” coffee isn’t 100% authentic… or is even straight-up fraudulent.
In fact, it’s estimated that as much as 80% of ALL Kopi Luwak coffee is, to some degree or another, fake!
If you’re convinced you need to track some Kopi Luwak down (and you’re a research nut, to boot) here’s good resource to make sure you’re finding the right stuff.
Prepare yourself, though, this stuff can run upwards of $600 per pound!
2. Monkey Poop Coffee
Okay, technically this one isn’t “poop” coffee, but it certainly involves an animal’s digestive process!
Marketed as a similar product to the world-famous civet coffee, monkey coffee (or monkey parchment coffee) is a fairly new phenomenon that is made when monkeys chew and spit out coffee cherries.
It is made in Chikmagalur, India, an area famous for its lush, hilly landscapes, copious rainfall, mountains, beaches… and coffee production.
A climate like this is perfect for Rhesus monkeys (2), which often live close to the numerous coffee plantations that are scattered across the region.
They’re an unavoidable companion that collectively love coffee (and raiding coffee farms), so some of the local farmers have just steered into the skid!
The result of this collision course has given us yet another strangely exotic new blend of coffee – this time with monkey saliva at its roots.
How is Monkey Coffee created?
Rhesus monkeys tend to go for the ripest, sweetest, highest-quality coffee cherries from each plant and chew them in a relaxed way before spitting them out (apparently they’re too pompous to actually eat them).
While much of the fruit may be mangled in the process, the beans inside the fruit can often be harvested afterward. So, while the monkeys sit like kings, chewing and spitting (3) at their leisure, workers run around carefully extracting the beans from the chewed-up monkey spit.
The beans are rinsed and washed off, processed, and then dried, leaving them a grey colour instead of the traditional raw green. They’re then roasted and sold at an incredible price!
What does Monkey Coffee taste like?
You can prepare monkey coffee like any typical coffee, but you definitely don’t want to waste your sugar or cream on this one.
The taste is uniquely one-of-a-kind.
“Heavy-bodied with a pleasant, rounded acidity (3),” this coffee has little to no bitterness. This is partly due to the enzymes in the beans, which are broken down by the saliva, shifting the bean’s flavour in the process.
A whole array of tastes can be found in this coffee bean: from citrus to nuts, chocolate to vanilla.
Where to get Monkey Coffee
This one is a toughy to find, as it is still a fairly new option. It isn’t regularly available and has to be snatched up when it hits the market. If you have the chance to drink some monkey coffee, grab it!
3. Black Ivory / Elephant Poop Coffee
Commonly known as Black Ivory Coffee, this bean is naturally refined through a ten-year process involving none other than Thai elephants in Ban Taklang, Surin, Thailand.
And while the process is similar to that of Kopi Luwak in that it is consumed, digested, and then pooped out, it is not abusive to the animals!
How is Elephant Shit Coffee created?
This one is a very controlled, yet ethically-conscious process (4) that should put even the most careworn coffee drinker at ease.
The process begins with Thai Arabica cherries grown in ideal conditions of 1500 meters above sea level.
The cherries are then picked and brought to well-cared-for elephants – each maintained in their own home – and carefully mixed in with their other food, including things like bananas and rice to ensure a balanced diet.
Once the coffee runs its course through the elephant (which can take anywhere from half a day to three days), the leftovers are pooped out and farmers go through the faeces by hand, harvesting the undigested beans.
The process “eats up” 36 whole pounds of coffee cherries for every one kilogram of coffee produced!
From there they are washed, raked, and then dried in the sun naturally before being hulled and sorted to ensure only the even, larger beans remain.
What does Elephant Coffee taste like?
The flavour profile for this one includes malt, chocolate, floral, cherry, tobacco, leather, and even a hint of grass!
It is a delicate cup without even a hint of bitterness.
Check out this video to see someone taste-testing Black Ivory coffee for the first time!
Where to get Elephant Poop Coffee
It’s among (if not the) rarest of all coffees produced, and can be very hard to get your hands on. However, you can purchase the Black Ivory Coffee beans here (5), when they’re available. Just be warned though – it’s not cheap! Last time I checked, they sell it for about $1000 USD per pound!
4. Wild Bat Shit Coffee
Our next specialty coffee is none other than bat poop coffee.
Bat poop coffee beans come from the Artibeus Jamaicensis, a species of bat that inhabits the forests around the Coffea Diversa Coffee Garden (6) in the southern Brunca region of Costa Rica.
Once again, however, we need to stop literally calling it bat “poop” coffee.
While the bats do consume the coffee cherries, the bats are so small that they can only nibble on them, kickstarting a process that leads to yet another kick-ass animal coffee.
How is Wild Bat Poop created?
The bats patiently chew off the exterior of the riper coffee cherries while they are still on the plant. They use their small, sharp teeth to tear at the outer skin and lick at the inner pulp in an effort to get some of the sugar it contains.
This begins a process in which the half-eaten cherries (where the beans are left partially exposed and interacting with the bat’s digestive acid) are left on the plant to dry naturally for as long as possible.
Eventually, only the best beans are harvested off the plant, and the drying process is carefully completed, turning the beans into this truly one-of-a-kind coffee.
What does Wild Bat Coffee taste like?
Coffee produced in this way makes a unique cup that is both fruity and floral, with a light acidity that enhances its delicate flavour profile.
A cup of wild bat coffee can be both smooth and sweet, with a pleasant aftertaste.
Where to get Wild Bat Coffee
While still quite difficult to get, when you can find it, the price of bat poop coffee is a little bit more affordable.
5. Bird Poop Coffee
Bird poop coffee (8) involves birds eating, digesting, and then pooping out coffee beans.
It was originally harvested from Henrique Sloper’s farm in Camocim, Brazil. The family-owned farm is a model for environmentally-sensitive coffee farming, but Sloper didn’t set out to revolutionize coffee through poop… he just wanted to create some high-quality, organic, holistically-grown coffee.
Partway into the process, however, his vision took a turn.
How is Bird Shit Coffee created?
When Henrique Sloper woke one morning in 2009 to an invasion of Jacu birds on his coffee plantation, he sat and watched dejectedly as they gorged themselves on his delicious, ripe red coffee cherries.
Other farms weren’t affected in this way, which led him to think that his holistic, biodynamic growing methods (based on the work of Rudolph Steiner (9)) were drawing the birds to his coffee cherries over the others.
And as it turned out, these birds were specifically selecting the absolute best cherries to eat. Compounded by the Jacu birds’ quick digestion and exclusively vegetarian diet, this made them taste more refined once they emerged out the…other end (yes, we’re talking about refined coffee shit here).
What does Bird Shit Coffee taste like?
Like all of these coffees, Wild Jacu coffee is exclusive. There’s nothing like it. It has a full body and a mild and pleasant taste.
It has a nutty, dusty sweetness, reminiscent of honey processed coffee (10), with hints of brown bread, molasses, milk chocolate, and anise.
Where to get Bird Poop Coffee
If you need to try this one out for yourself, you can find it here (11)!
Just be aware that bird poop coffee sells for over a whopping seven times the price of the (still organic) original.
The Big Question: Why Is this Shit So Dang Expensive?
As you can imagine from the numbers we’ve been throwing out there, animal poop coffee can be among the most expensive coffees in the world.
Not surprisingly, the cost of this kind of coffee comes from the method it takes to make it.
And it’s no wonder! I mean, animals don’t punch in to work. They’re not very cooperative.
The only way to drop that price is to create the stuff in bulk by capturing the animals and forcing them to produce. But when the process is tainted by cruelty, the quality is simultaneously affected by tampering with the natural process.
These are just some of the factors that lead to an animal poop coffee price point roughly twice as high as silver, on average.
It’s not necessarily gold, but it isn’t far off.
Wrapping (wiping) Up
Alright. We’ve had a good chance to go over the origin, benefits, costs, and ethics of animal poop coffee. We’ve also looked at several different kinds of coffee, from pooping civets, elephants, and Jacus to nibbling bats and chewing monkeys.
What variety grabs your attention the most? Do any of them? Or did we convince you once and for all that this option just isn’t for you? If that sounds like you, here’s another list of exciting coffee beans to explore minus the faeces.
- These Scientists Want to Bring You Civet-Poop Coffee Without the Civets | WIRED Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2014/10/civet-coffee-without-civets/
- Rhesus Monkey | National Geographic Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/160429-kopi-luwak-captive-civet-coffee-Indonesia
- Exotic coffee is monkey business – Washington Times Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jul/24/exotic-coffee-is-monkey-business/
- The Process – Black Ivory Coffee – The World’s Most Expensive Coffee Retrieved from https://blackivorycoffee.com/pages/about-us
- Black Ivory Coffee: The World’s Rarest and Most Expensive Coffee Retrieved From https://blackivorycoffee.com/
- Coffea Diversa Costa Rica Retrieved From https://green.coffeadiversa.com/
- Wild Bat Geisha Coffee, Costa Rica – Sea Island Coffee Retrieved from https://www.seaislandcoffee.com/wild-bat-coffee-costa-rican-coffee
- Why Coffee Pooped Out of a Brazilian Bird Sells For Big Bucks – Modern Farmer Retrieved from https://modernfarmer.com/2013/10/flight-jacu-bird/
- Who Was Rudolf Steiner? | Biodynamic Association Retrieved from https://www.biodynamics.com/steiner.html
- Jacu Bird Coffee: Unusual but Delightful – Coffee Supremacy Retrieved from https://coffeesupremacy.com/jacu-bird-coffee/
- Wild Jacu Bird Coffee, Brazil – Sea Island Coffee Retrieved from https://seaislandcoffee.com/products/wild-animal-jacu-bird