Peru growers harness mammal’s digestive tract to strip bitter-taste from very costly coffee beans

Peru growers harness mammal’s digestive tract to strip bitter-taste from very costly coffee beans

Reuters reports that two Peruvian coffee producers — Cecovasa and Chanchamayo Highland Coffee Co. — are now making one of the most expensive coffees in the world by retrieving arabica beans from the dung of a long-nosed jungle mammal called the coati, a tropical cousin of the raccoon.

The process copies a rare technique from Indonesia, where the beans are fished out from the poo of a different animal, a cat-like creature called the Asian palm civet.

Coffee connoisseurs reportedly are paying anywhere from $20 to $65 for a cup of the exotic Peruvian brew, described as “less bitter and more full-bodied than most coffees, and with an unusually long aftertaste.”

The coffee enhancing digestive tracts of the Peruvian coati and Southeast Asian civet

Now, for anyone out there inclined to suggest that Peru’s use of this rare coffee producing technique amounts to an unfair knockoff of the original Indonesian dung coffee, I would argue that this actually represents an evening of a historical score.

In the 1630s, Jesuit priests took bark from the Peruvian cinchona tree — the original source of quinine — back to Europe, where it was hailed as a miracle cure for malaria.

Peru's national Coat of ArmsBut Peru never reaped the wealth it deserved from the discovery. That’s because cinchona seeds were smuggled by the Dutch from Peru in the 19th century and planted in Java. Indonesia became the world’s primary source of quinine.

In 1825, Simón Bolívar and the Constituent Congress added the cinchona tree as a symbol on Peru’s national coat of arms, along with the vicuña and a gold cornucopia. Today the tree remains part of the centerpiece of Peru’s flag — a constant reminder of Peru’s unrewarded contribution to one of the most important breakthroughs in medical history.

Something to ponder while sipping a piping hot mug of coati coffee.

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Authored by: Rick Vecchio

Rick Vecchio, Fertur’s director of development and marketing, was educated at the New School for Social Research and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He worked for Pacifica Radio WBAI and as a daily reporter for newspapers in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. Then in 1996, he decided it was time to realize a life-long dream of traveling to Peru. He never went back. While serving as Peru country manager for the South American Explorers from 1997-1999, he fell in love with Fertur's founder, Siduith Ferrer, and they married. Over the next six years, he worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press. Meanwhile, Siduith built the business, which he joined in January 2007. Now he designs custom educational and adventure tour packages for corporate and institutional clients, oversees Fertur’s Internet platform and occasionally leads special trips, always with an eye open for a good story to write about.

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