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set 29, 2017

Meet the Jacu Bird Coffee, one of the world’s best (and most exclusive)

Historically one of the building blocks of Brazil’s economy, Brazilian coffee is no longer just a bulk-produced crop. Although the country remains one of the world’s principal suppliers of coffee beans, it has diversified. After years of investments and modernization, Brazil is coming close to becoming the world’s largest producer of specialty beans. The transformation is observed both among producers and consumers. “The demand for quality beans is increasing fast in Brazil, as more people are interested in knowing the properties of their coffee,” says Marina Figueiredo, a director at the Brazilian Speciality Coffee Association (BSCA).

One of Brazil’s most unique and highest regarded speciality coffees, the Jacu Bird coffee, is one of the newest speciality coffees on the block. Only possible to create in Brazil, this coffee’s namesake is the Jacu bird, a native to the Atlantic rainforest. Until recent years, the bird which was once seen as a pest by coffee growers – as they could eat up to 10 percent of the crop. Today, however, the relationship between the growers and the bird has drastically changed for the better.

The production process of the Jacu Bird Coffee is similar to the ‘Copi Luwak’, the infamous high-grade Indonesian coffee that comes produced from the faeces of the animal that eats and partially digests the beans. Producers discovered that although the Jacu bird picks the ripest coffee beans from the tree, not only is it possible to produce coffee using the same methods as Copi Luwak, but it also produces some of the highest quality speciality coffee you’ll ever taste.

Fazenda Camocim, in the mountains of the state of Espírito Santo, is one of the primary producers of the coffee. Although at first coffee growers were irritated by the Jacu birds pilfering their best beans, they decided in 2006 that it may be worth experimenting. Growers believe some of the coffee’s flavour comes from the rest of the bird’s diet. “We can’t control what the Jacu eats, so we joke that the blend is determined by it,” Henrique Sloper, owner of the farm, told Revista CaféCultura. “Besides the coffee fruit, the species loves to eat red fruits.”

The end result is a creamy, dense coffee with a delicate balance of flavors, which growers feel is worth the time and effort that goes into collecting the beans by hand. The coffee has already had a positive reception in foreign countries, winning praise for its chocolatey and fruity flavour notes and its balance of an acidic base and a sweeter taste.

New methods of packaging and preserving coffee, developed by the University of Lavras (UFLA) in partnership with BSCA and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil), facilitated the coffee’s journey to other countries, lengthening its lifespan.

UFLA researchers observed that the traditional packaging used by producers all over the world doesn’t prevent the beans from losing its properties after 12 months in stock. They developed a package that combines aluminium and a ‘modified atmosphere’ – that is, the injection of 10 percent of carbon dioxide. “We promoted several tests, and observed that the new packaging preserves the coffee’s flavors and properties even after long periods of time,” says Flávio Borém, who led the research.

With demand for speciality coffees growing both domestically in Brazil and abroad, the Jacu Bird Coffee could soon find its way into the list of the world’s most sought-after luxury coffees. Currently, it is already shipped to some of the world’s pickiest coffee-drinking countries, including Australia, France, Japan and the United States.