Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Weird Food News Brazilian-style: Possum-spit coffee

Pardon us if we sound a bit P. T. Barnumesque, but a recent article in São Paulo's Folha de S. Paulo newspaper brought his "sucker born every minute" quote to mind. We can't speak for our readers, but we have a feeling that very few of our followers would spend R$900 (USD$450) for a kilo of coffee beans that had been chewed, then spit out, by a gray four-eyed possum. Those readers of Flavors of Brazil who would fork out that kind of cash, consider yourself among those to whom Mr. Barnum was referring.

Accord to the article, this rather extraordinary coffee bean, is a marketing idea conceived by Rogério Lemke, owner of a coffee plantation called Camocim, located in Pedra Azul, Brazil. Pedra Azul is located in the state of Espírito Santo, which is situated on the Atlantic coast of Brazil, just north of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The cuica
When interviewed by the newspaper's reporter about his R$900/kg coffee beans, Sr. Lemka explained that he discovered the beans by accident. He had long been puzzled by the fact that every morning the earth around his coffee trees was sprinkled with partially chewed coffee beans. The shell that normally protects the bean on the tree was missing, as was the sticky, sweet substance that surrounds the bean, called "honey." Even though he picked up the fallen beans, there were more of them the following day. One night, he decided to stay up and watch his trees to see what happened. And what happened was this: after dark, a native, nocturnal marsupial that inhabits the area, called cuica in Portuguese (and gray four-eyed possum in English) would settle in the coffee trees and begin to sup on the fruit. The little critters appear to love the shell, adore the honey, yet only tolerate the bean itself, spitting most of it out. The beans that Sr. Lemke found daily on the ground were the cuica's left-overs from their nightly coffee binge. He now says that he has determined how best to treat and to roast these beans, and plans on bringing them to the market beginning this November, at the startling price mentioned above.

There's no indication of how the market will accept these beans, but being followers of Mr. Barnum's philosophy, we won't be surprised if Sr. Lemke's (and the cuicas') coffee turns out to be a big success.

Sr. Lemke noticed that the marsupials didn't eat every fruit, and that they appeared to be quite selective in choosing which fruits to eat. Taste tests of coffee made from the cuicas' reject pile proved that they only ate the very best-quality fruits. Thus the coffee beans that they spit out constituted the best of Sr. Lemke's crop.

Being entrepeneurially inclined, Sr. Lemke decided to harvest the coffee beans that the cuicas rejected separately, a time-intensive and expensive process. He roasted these beans separately and began testing them for flavor, color and aroma. Having come up with what he thinks is the best roast for these beans, he plans on launching these beans on the market in November of this year. There's no real indication how these extraordinary beans (and their extraordinary price) will be accepted in the marketplace, but we have a feeling that Mr. Barnum might be proved right one more time. We'll have to wait and see.


  1. How do you think it would compare to Kopi Luwak?

    1. I'm not sure which delivery method for the beans is least unpleasant - via the mouth and teeth of the cuica or via the intestinal tract of the Palm civet! Thanks for the link.

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