Inspired by the success of Kopi Luwak or ‘palm civet’ coffee, we set about creating something similar with one of Cumbria’s icons.
Back in September 2013 we managed to arrange for 120kg of coffee cherries to be shipped over to our Roastery. Due to their perishable nature we were very anxious for their arrival but owing to some brilliant refrigeration technology, they were delivered in perfect condition.
We took the cherries down to a local farm and tentatively fed them (with the farmer’s permission of course) to a few of his Herdwick sheep. This was a critical stage in the process as we really weren’t sure whether the animals would enjoy them. To our relief they were happily taking the cherries from our hands and munching away on them.
We returned the following day and started looking for the sheep droppings. For those of you unaware of Kopi Luwak coffee, it relies on the guts of the animal to remove the cherry pulp, with the bean being passed out in their droppings. The fermentation process within the animal adds a unique characteristic to the coffee.
We were soon finding plenty of green coffee beans intermingled with the droppings from the animal and at this stage we realised that our idea might just come to fruition!
Over the winter months, coffee cherries became part of the staple diet of a flock of Herdwick sheep. Each week, along with a group of able volunteers, we would scour the fellside in search of sheep droppings and those elusive green beans. Eventually, after weeks of effort we managed to collect 2kg of green coffee, processed by Herdwick sheep on a fellside in Cumbria.
This week we took the bold step of roasting the coffee. We only had one shot at this with only 2kg of coffee. It was an anxious time but in the capable hands of Angharad, we managed to carefully roast the batch. We now have around 1.5kg of roasted coffee and have just sampled our first cup of it. It has some unique flavours and we are pretty sure we could pick out hints of mint.
Out of interest the farmer did notice the sheep were a lot more agile during the time they were fed the coffee, they were difficult to herd and they seemed to spend more time on their feet; overall their alterness levels seemed to be enhanced.
We’re taking this small supply of coffee with us next week to the Caterite Food & Drink Expo which takes place on the 1st April! Pop along to say hello if you’re visiting!