By Brett Arends, MarketWatch
A café selling what may be one of the most expensive cups of coffee in the world opened its doors last week, serving espresso at the scalding hot price of almost $40 a shot. This artisanal cup of joe is made from coffee beans collected from among the droppings of a rare South American bird.
The Jacu café in central London, a short walk from Britain’s new Houses of Parliament, opened its doors last week. The high-end shop opened its doors the same week as Brexit, the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. Its highest-priced offering makes Starbucks /zigman2/quotes/207508890/composite SBUX +3.58% look cheap.
It’s owned by two European immigrants: Arif Graca, originally from Serbia, and his German wife, Diana. The café is named for the Brazilian jacu bird, which eats coffee berries, digests the outer shell and defecates the rest . The process is supposed to yield a bean with a uniquely smooth taste.
‘All our food is from poop. What’s the best fertilizer?’
The coffee has all the elements of modern urban chic. It’s all-natural, unusual and very expensive. Graca notes that the jacu bird “lives wild in the forest” and “picks only the best beans.” One question that may be open to debate: Do these beans qualify as vegan?
You can drink jacu coffee any way you like, but Graca says it’s best tasted as an espresso. Anything else dilutes the flavor, he says. Adding to the allure and, perhaps, a savvy marketing gimmick: The café serves the jacu espresso in aluminum goblets.
“Charges £30 a cup for its espresso,” noted one early reviewer on Google /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -0.23% /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -0.47% . That converts to approximately $39 at current exchange rates. “It is brewed from the excrement of the bird,” the review continued. “It’s out of a movie. Unbelievable.”
MarketWatch tested the unusual coffee on a few people who wandered into the café on a lazy afternoon. “Earth tones,” said Alasdair, a middle-aged Scottish businessman, when asked to describe the flavor. “There’s an oiliness in it that stays in your mouth,” said his friend Jenn.
Both said they liked the coffee. They found the jacu espresso very different from regular coffee, and said they much preferred it. “There’s no comparison,” said Alasdair. “You almost want to sip it and savor it.” Added Jenn: “It’s smooth and refined. I don’t like bitter coffee.”
‘It’s smooth and refined.’
Evgeny and Xenia, a young Russian couple, also had nice things to say. “It’s a bit acidic, but it’s very smooth,” said Evgeny, who said he works in software. It’s “a little bit floral,” added Xenia. (This writer didn’t like the jacu very much, but he’s no fan of espresso.)
The beans’ provenance didn’t bother the people who shared their taste tests with MarketWatch. “All our food is from poop,” said Jenn, adding: “What’s the best fertilizer?” Xenia shrugged. She didn’t care, either. The beans have been washed, she said.
As for the price: Most people are not going to spend nearly $40 on an espresso every day (unless they’re very rich and/or seek to be different). But Jenn said she’d rather drink one of these a week than $5 worth of cheaper coffees every day.
The Gracas already had a connection with Brazil, where they own two restaurants. They seized on the idea of the jacu coffee as a way of differentiating their café in a fiercely competitive city. “We wanted to open a coffee shop, but we wanted to do something different,” said Arif.
They’re betting that well-heeled residents of an increasingly high-priced London, which they hope is getting its mojo back after a prolonged and painful four-year path toward exiting the European Union, will embrace the ultimate in extravagant cups of coffee.
It’s being served in a residential area well away from the worn tourist and restaurant paths, about 10 minutes’ walk south from the Houses of Parliament. Arif said he’d sold four jacu coffees in the first couple of days. Most customers, it seems, were still sticking with the regular, and typically priced, stuff.