The Best-Tasting Coffee Might Be One That Bats Got to First
We're less than one month into 2020, but it has already been a big one for bats. In early January, the U.S. Mint revealed the five designs that will be featured on this year's National Park and Historic Site quarters, and everyone's immediate favorite was the one that depicted a mother Samoan fruit bat with her adorable baby tucked protectively under her wing.
"The image evokes the remarkable care and energy that this species puts into their offspring," the Mint said of the quarter. "The design is intended to promote awareness to the species’ threatened status due to habitat loss and commercial hunting. The National Park of American Samoa is the only park in the United States that is home to the Samoan fruit bat."
And according to Reuters, an increasingly in-demand coffee is the one that bats have already chewed on.
Bourbon pointu coffee is a varietal that was derived from a mutation of the arabica coffee species. It was originally discovered in 1711 on Réunion Island, off the east coast of Madagascar. Although bourbon pointu continued to be grown and cultivated on that island, Madagascan farmers tended to focus their efforts on other beans that were better suited to instant coffee.
But two years ago, Jacques Ramarlah, a farmer and agricultural engineer, started the process of bringing bourbon pointu back to Madagascar, and he has since established a network of "about 90 farmers" who grow the beans and send them to him.
Ramarlah also noticed that bats are attracted to bourbon pointu berries, and they have a tendency to help themselves to the very best ones. Some bat spit advocates say that the reaction between the bats' digestive juices and the air-dried cherries make an already good coffee taste even better. The bats also push the price up: this version of bourbon pointu can go for $110 per pound.
"It’s very special. Normal coffee, after two minutes, you forget the taste—but this coffee stays a very long time in your mouth," Ronald Van der Vaeken, a Belgian hotelier told Reuters. "It’s not acidic… it’s very good."
Sea Island Coffee, a London supplier of exotic and high-end specialty coffees, also stocks a bat-enhanced coffee, although it differs in both bat and bean from the Madagascan version. It sources its geisha beans from Costa Rica, where the cherries are lightly chewed by the Jamaican fruit bat (Artibeus jamaicensis).
"[T]he bat breaks the skin of the ripe cherry with its teeth, feeds on the pulp and licks the sugar-rich mucilage thereby initiating a uniquely natural coffee processing method," Sea Island writes of the coffee, which costs £42.50 ($55.18) for every 125 grams. (It's also currently sold out.)
Using animals' digestive systems as a way to further enhance a coffee's flavor profile isn't unique to bats: coffee cherries that have been eaten and pooped out by the civet cat are collected, roasted and processed into the fantastically expensive kopi luwak coffee.
If you'd like to try a cup of "bat spit" coffee, you'd better do it soon before the price inevitably increases. It's definitely going to cost more than a bat-emblazoned quarter.