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The Coffee Bird

The mid morning light cut and shimmered through the misty jungle air.
Things were quiet.  The canopy of leaves far above swayed in silence; a natural ceiling that barricaded the harsh light and protected the warm cradle of life below.  There was no noise, no breeze to shake the leaves, no movement to create the natural creaks and pops that are a part of this protected environment.  The bird listened, but heard nothing.  No enemies, no competitors, nothing for it to worry about.  The bird darted and rocked his head from side to side.  Back to the work at hand: it was time to eat.

The bird stepped along the edge of the wild canopy, looking for a crop that was near and dear to his heart.  It knew that just outside the bubble of the jungle canopy was something that would fill it’s empty gut.  Something juicy and rich, something that would break and yield in it’s powerful beak.  The round, red cherries of ripe coffee called to this bird, and it would answer.  Its hunger was only the first step in the strange voyage of the Jacu Bird Coffee Bean.

Eating Man’s Crops; drinking ….uh…

jacuThe bird, known as a “Dusky Legged Guan” reminds some of a dark, perhaps athletic looking chicken.
Unlike most wild foragers, this bird is free to wander among the crops carefully cultivated by Brazilian coffee farmers.  The bird only chooses the ripest, largest coffee cherries, and eats them one after the other.  It would seem common sense that such an attack upon a farm crop would mean brutal counter-measures by the local farmers.  But that doesn’t happen here.  The farmers have learned how to take lemons and make lemonade from a seemly bad situation.  Actually, they’ve learned how to take bird droppings and make very, very expensive coffee.

A Special Process…

Preparing coffee beans for export usually involves either a drying process that takes the ripe cherries and dries them on screens until the fruit can be removed, or a wet process where soaking does the majority of the work.  The idea is free the seed inside from the fruit that surrounds it.  The chicken – sized jacu bird of Brazil aids in the process by wandering the coffee fields, eating the nicest of cherries, and then naturally stripping them of their flesh while riding about in their gut.  The seed is then unceremoniously deposited; to be collected by excited farmers as a premium bean.  The “stripped” bean is washed and dried and otherwise prepared for export and “Jacu Bird Coffee,”  the coffee prepared inside a bird’s digestive tract.

What’s It like?

Some say it’s great, somehow changed by the enzymes found in the bird’s digestive tract.  Others say it’s about the same as any other Brazilian coffee.  But no matter the taste, Jacu Bird Coffee commands special attention and a special price.  It is obviously a coffee in limited quantities, and does command a premium wherever you might find it.  But what is nice to see is that man has learned to profit from the natural habits of the animals around him.  Instead of killing them off, the coffee farmers have turned the bird into a partner.  Farmer gets a special crop westerners will pay dearly for and the bird gets the bean.  Can’t ask for a better deal than that.