The Sunday Times, page 3
By Shingi Mararike
When I told my mum I would be drinking a £30 cup of bird poo last Friday, she was appalled. “People will do anything to make money,” she said, before retching at the breakfast table.
Jacu, a coffee shop opening this week in central London, will be selling Britain’s most expensive cup of coffee. Who would want to pay such a princely sum for a “super-premium” brew made from the excrement of a rare South American bird of the same name? There was no way that liquefied droppings could beat a black Americano from Pret A Manger for about £2, I thought.
But almost as soon as I open the door to the coffee house, I feel as if I have entered a shrine of sorts. The walls are lined with drawings and photographs of the red-necked bird, which loosely resembles a turkey.
“This coffee is unique. You have to try it to understand,” coos Arif Graca, the shop’s owner. “This is the kind of taste you cannot experience anywhere in the UK. If you drink it you will become addicted. I have a cup every five hours.”
Sitting alongside Gustavo Dalla Vecchia, the cafe’s manager, Graca talks through the process of turning droppings into coffee beans.
According to them, the jacu, which flies around a small estate just outside Rio de Janeiro, has a knack for choosing the best coffee berries “like a dog choosing the best bone”.
Once the birds have digested the coffee berries, local villagers spend hours collecting their droppings and transporting them to a drying area, where they are stored for up to three months before the beans are extracted and packed into bags that sell for hundreds of pounds.
Poo-based coffee, it turns out, is a lucrative business: Black Ivory, made from elephant faeces, and kopi luwak, produced by Asian civets, are similarly expensive.
At Jacu cafe, customers looking for a slightly less extravagant drink can buy a normal Lavazza coffee for up to £3, while connoisseurs can enjoy their signature blend for £30, with or without milk.
“The taste is a much fuller one than what you’re used to: it’s like trying a fine whisky or having a good cigar,” Graca tells me, perhaps sensing my discomfort as he strides across the restaurant to bring me my brew.
He hands me the cup and I take a deep whiff. To my surprise, it smells more like citrus than faeces, giving me the courage to take a sip.
I’m used to nursing my coffee, battling the bitter aftertaste, but this is different. It goes down smoothly. One sip quickly turns to 15, and before I know it my cup is empty.
I’m not entirely sure my Jacu Americano is worth £2 a sip. After all, for £30 I could have gone to the cinema three times or bought myself a meal for two at my favourite restaurant. But it certainly was the best coffee I have ever had, whatever my mother’s reservations.