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What is monkey parchment coffee and why is it so exotic?
This coffee is very rare. Perhaps it is one of the rarest in the category of exotic coffees. It is a coffee from the Chikmagalur region of India and parts of Taiwan. It has no specific name but is known as monkey dung coffee, monkey coffee, monkey spit coffee, among others. This makes the search even more complicated. However, we believe that the English name “monkey parchment” is more appropriate.
There are two main monkey species involved in the production of this coffee:
- Formosan rock macaque: a primate found in Taiwan and Japan.
- Rhesus monkey: a primate belonging to the Formosan macaque family, Cercopithecidae, the family of Old World monkeys. These are found primarily in southern India in Karnataka.
These primates pick the ripe fruits and chew them because the monkeys are interested in the pulp. After a few minutes of chewing, they spit the leftover beans on the ground. The farmers then collect all the beans and process them further. Enzymes from the primates’ saliva give the beans more flavor.
Coffee farms in India and Taiwan are usually located near forests where there are other plants that provide shade for the coffee plants. These forests are the natural habitat of the two species of monkeys. Their diet consists mainly of ripe coffee cherries.
In the past, these monkeys were considered pests because they “damaged” the farmers’ best beans. However, it was later discovered that these primates help produce some of the best and most exotic gourmet coffee in the world.
Processing of the coffee
Primates are very attracted to ripe cherries because of their sweetness. They chew the entire outer part of the cherry, i.e. the pulp, for a few minutes and eat it. Then the coffee bean (seed) is spit out along with the parchment surrounding the beans.
As with the other processes, the monkeys’ saliva breaks down enzymes in the coffee beans that change their flavor and complexity. The main changes to the beans are that they are stripped of bitterness and become sweeter compared to traditional coffee.
This is where the hard work of the farmers comes into play. They have to find all the seeds that the monkeys have spat out. After harvesting, they wash the coffee beans, remove the parchment and dry them. At this point, the coffee beans are gray and not green, as is the case with conventional coffee. This is due to the saliva that the beans have come into contact with.
This practice is very new and its history dates back to the beginning of this century or so. Previously, the beans on the ground were considered natural waste and not gourmet coffee. However, with the boom of other animal-processed coffees, several producers decided to try this exotic preparation method.
Things to consider
Here are the main points you should consider when trying monkey coffee. Since it is an exotic coffee that has not been on the market for long, you should know more about its flavors, roasting degree, and price.
Monkey coffee has a sweeter, more complex flavor. It has notes of chocolate, citrus aromas, nuts, and vanilla. It has a strong body, balanced acidity, and very little bitterness.
However, these flavors do not always apply to this coffee. Since it is not a variety, but a form of production, the taste depends on many factors. In general, these primates feed only on Arabica coffee, but the taste varies depending on the type of bean, the degree of roasting and the method of brewing.
The same applies to caffeine. This coffee contains between 80 and 250 mg of caffeine per cup. Arabica coffee usually does not contain as much caffeine as Robusta coffee. If you’re wondering if caffeine is bad for you, be sure to check out our blog on the effects of caffeine on human health.
Degree of roasting
This largely depends on the producing company. However, most of the time these exotic coffees have a light to a medium roasting degree. This is the best level of roast to bring out all the original flavors of the variety, as well as those taken from the monkey saliva.
Since this is an exotic and animal-related coffee, it is not cheap, nor is it easy to obtain. A kilo of this coffee can cost around 355 USD. A cup of monkey coffee can cost around $10.
Be aware of brands that use the monkey as an image but are not the original monkey parchment coffee. Cheap prices might be an indicator of fake brands.
Where to buy monkey parchment coffee?
It is very difficult to get this coffee. Even more so than other exotic coffees on the market. Moreover, since it is a relatively new coffee on the market, it is not available everywhere in the world. Mostly, you can find this coffee in specialty stores in India and Taiwan.
The scarcity of this product is due to the fact that it is 100% derived from the remains spat out by the primates in these regions. Very little! For this reason, only a few kilos per year are produced, which are not enough to export.
If you have the opportunity to travel to any of these places, you should definitely try this coffee, it may be your only chance!
Other exotic coffees
There are more products in this range of expensive coffees with rather strange origins – don’t miss them!