Straight from the Monkey’s Mouth


Today in the Globe and Mail, Fiona Morrow covered a unique coffee going on sale at 49th Parallel this Wednesday.

When it comes to coffee, monkeys know best. Unlike humans, who can only identify whether the fruit that contains the coffee bean is ripe, the sand-coloured rhesus macaques that roam wild in Southern India are genetically predisposed to harvest the crop’s sweetest cherries and so, the best beans.

The monkeys flit from bush to bush picking the one or two finest fruits on each plant and storing them for several hours in their mouth pouches. Unlike Kopi Luwak, the Sumatran beans harvested from the droppings of civet cats, Devon Estate’s 795 Arabica beans are simply chewed and spat out.

Now the coffee from these masticated beans will be available at Vancouver’s 49th Parallel Coffee. Despite the odd tooth mark, “this is a very, very good coffee,” said Vince Piccolo, the company’s president. “It’s unusual because it has very low acidity. We plan to serve it as a single-origin espresso, not blended with anything else.”

The degree of discernment in the monkeys’ taste buds was discovered by accident when workers at the plantation picked up some of the chewed beans littering the ground to see what they were like. The result was so exceptional, workers were dispatched to gather as many as they could find.

Only five sacks of this peculiar coffee were produced and 49th Parallel has three of them. The coffee will be available from Wednesday at 49th Parallel’s Kitsilano coffee shop as espresso or in $25, 12-ounce bags of beans. Piccolo expects it to be sold out within the month.

Last modified: May 5, 2008

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