Coffee: It's monkey business

Coffee connoisseurs are going ape for a rare brew that Taiwanese farmers are producing with the help of monkeys.

15 Nov 2007

Formosan rock monkeys have long been a scourge to coffee farmers in Taiwan's mountains because they eat the ripe berries and spit out the seeds. But now, the farmers are collecting these half-chewed seeds and roasting them to produce a coffee that is being brewed all over the island.

"The monkeys pick the reddest fruits to eat, and spit out the seeds. They cannot swallow them because that may cause indigestion," said Liao Ching-tung, a coffee farmer for 30 years who has recently taken up roasting the regurgitated seeds.

"For other crops it may cause serious loss, but if they eat coffee in this area, then it saves me the trouble of peeling the fruits," he added.

Liao says the discarded seeds yield a sweeter coffee with a vanilla-like scent, which sells for about $56 a pound.

For coffee lovers like Wang Chih-ming, price is no object. "I like coffee it's got a nice aftertaste, that's really good," said Wang.

Coffee beans excreted by native civet cats in Indonesia and painstakingly extracted by hand from the animals' forest droppings reputedly produce the world's rarest and most expensive coffee, which sells for around $1,000 a kg.

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