Monkey Parchment Coffee: Formosan Rock Macaques (Macaca cyclopis) and Specialty Brews From Taiwan

by DerdriuMarriner

Coffee-processing evokes images of hard-working laborers. But luxury coffees sometimes include the unpaid work of animals. One example is Formosan rock monkey parchment coffee.

Ilha Formosa (“beautiful island”) appears as one of the historic descriptions for East Asia’s sovereign state of Taiwan. West Pacific Ocean-traveling Portuguese entrepreneurs during the Ages of Discovery and Exploration from the 15th century onward are responsible for the designation.

The name communicates the enduring appeal of what politico-administratively is known since 1949 as Zhōnghuá Mínguó (“Republic of China”):
• central and northern forests of giant timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii);
• gentle hillslopes of Formosan koa (Acacia confusa);
• harmonious geography of alluvial plains below 328.08 feet (100 meters) above sea level, hill terraces under elevations of 3,280.84 feet (1,000 meters), and towering mountains up to heights of 12,965.88 feet (3,952 meters);
• lush vegetation harvested by coffee-loving Formosan rock monkeys.


George House Fine Coffee, seller of Kaapi Monkey in Taiwan:

No. 237, Jinhua St, Daan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106


closeup of elegant brewing receptacles at George House Fine Coffee, a Taiwanese coffee shop serving monkey parchment coffee as Kaapi Monkey ("monkey coffee")

Tainan, southern Taiwan
Tainan, southern Taiwan


Locals are aware of the endemic presence of Formosan rock macaques (Macaca radiata) and the shorter shelf-life of coffee cultivation (Coffea arabica) on the subtropical/tropical island country. Formosan rock monkeys can be found as:

  • Native animals inhabiting Taiwan;
  • Naturalized fauna living elsewhere through captivity, domestication, introduction, or research;
  • Non-native wildlife occurring on Japan.

Coffee shrubs and small trees (Coffea arabica, C. canephora) contrastingly claim:

  • Central – west Africa as the pale-flowered, red-fruited evergreen’s original homeland;
  • Northeast Africa’s Horn as the vigorous woody plant’s first-known crop-growing.

Bio-geographical transplants to Taiwan date to the realization by 17th-century world-trekking Dutch entrepreneurs of the climatic and geological match between what the sweet potato-shaped nation offers and what the freezing temperatures-fearing plant requires.


coffee tree in western Taiwan: Dutch brought coffee to Taiwan in 17th century

咖啡 (coffee)
咖啡 (coffee)


The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie’s (“United East India Company”) impact upon Taiwan can be described as physically lasting and temporally fleeting.  The chartered company’s real-time presence dates to 38 years, 1624 - 1662. The operations base of the world’s first multinational corporation and stock-issuing company at Fort Zeelandia still exists as Anping Castle and Fort, the island’s Java brick-built fortification and leading tourist attraction. It honors the concubinage of countless Dutchwomen, the deaths of 1,600 soldiers, and the valor of 400 survivors during a freshwater-denying, 9-month siege. It laments the stronghold’s formal surrender by 12th Governor Frederick Coyett (1615? – October 17, 1687) on February 9, 1662 to Japan-born Chinese General Zheng Chenggong (August 27, 1624 – June 23, 1662).  


Fort Zeelandia (right), ca. 1624 - 1662; Chinese quarter (left) ~ The fort was built on a sandy peninsula, Tayouan (Taioan), separated from Tainan by a lagoon, Tai-chiang inland sea, which was largely silted over by storm in 1823:

bird's-eye-view map by Dutch cartographer Jan (Joan) Willemsz Blaeu(September 23, 1596 – May 28, 1673)
map from Atlas Maior ("Great Atlas"), published in 1662 as 11-volume reissue of Atlas Novus (1635)
map from Atlas Maior ("Great Atlas"), published in 1662 as 11-volume reissue of Atlas Novus (1635)


Fort Zeelandia bemoans the defeat of a super-outnumbered Dutch population by 25,000 soldiers with:

  • 400 ships;
  • Multiple strategies for establishing an independent kingdom to defend Han China’s Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) and oppose Manchu China’s Qing dynasty (1644 – 1912).

It does not grieve the end of Arabic-speaking cultivators and traders’ control over access to beans and production of brews. It instead extols the cash-crop’s sustainability despite:

  • Governmental tumult by Tungning kings (1662 – 1683), Qing emperors (1683 – 1895), and Japanese rulers (1895 – 1945/1952);
  • Physical turbulence from earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes;
  • Socio-economic turmoil of twentieth-century market trends.

After almost 4 centuries, Fort Zeelandia witnesses the current competitiveness of historically smaller coffee farms with traditionally larger oolong tea plantations.


coffee blossoms in western Taiwan

Gukeng, eastern Yunlin county, western Taiwan
Gukeng, eastern Yunlin county, western Taiwan


The Tropic of Cancer divides Taiwan into:

  • Central – northern subtropics;
  • Central – southern tropics.

Taiwan’s center – south includes the agro-industrial, coffee-growing counties of:

  • Chiayi;
  • Hualien;
  • Kaohsiung;
  • Nantou;
  • Pingtung;
  • Tainan;
  • Yunlin.

It involves:

  • Average day-to-night temperatures of 66.2°F (19°C) and 54.2°F (12.3°C) in winter, 75.2°F (24°C) and 62°F (16.7°C) in spring, 89.6°F (32°C) and 74°F (23.3°C) in summer, and 80°F (26.7°C) and 66.2°F (19°C) in autumn;
  • Average yearly rainfall of 82.68 inches (2,100 millimeters), with November super-dry and June super-wet;
  • Cool evenings and warm days;
  • Daily overcast and sunlit hours.

Diverse landforms likewise offer Arabian and robust varieties respective altitudes of:

  • 656.17 – 2,624.67 feet (200 – 800 meters) above sea level;
  • 2,624.67 – 6,561.68 feet (800 – 2,000 meters) above sea level.


Taiwan's Princess Coffee Plantation

Ruisui Township, southern Hualien County, east central Taiwan
Ruisui Township, southern Hualien County, east central Taiwan


Central – southern habitats accommodate the life-sustaining requirements of:

  • Coffee plants;
  • Formosan rock monkeys.

The distributional ranges, life cycles, and natural histories of Taiwanese macaques are familiar to wildlife-loving amateurs and experts outside East Asia since the first formal taxonomy in 1862 by Calcutta-born English naturalist Robert Swinhoe (September 1, 1836 – October 28, 1877). The folivorous (“leaf-eating”), frugivorous (“fruit-eating”), graminivorous (“grass-eating”), insectivorous (“insect-eating”), molluscivorous (snail-eating) primate currently considers as home within Taiwan’s center – northeast and center - southwest:

  • Altitudes up to 11,811.02 feet (3,600 meters);
  • Bamboo, coniferous, mixed broadleaf – coniferous, or secondary forests;
  • Broad-leaved evergreen forests;
  • Forest patches;
  • Grasslands.

The day-tripping, ground-foraging, rock-scaling, tree-climbing primate also lives as a naturalized import in Japan at:

  • Nojima;
  • Ōshima;
  • Shimokita;
  • Wakayama.


two Formosan Rock Macaques (Macaca cyclopis)

Endemic animals of Taiwan.
Endemic animals of Taiwan.


Formosan bio-geographies allow Taiwan’s female rock monkeys to:

  • Gestate 165 days after the mating months of October to January;
  • Give live deliveries of one 14.11-ounce (400-gram) newborn April to June;
  • Impart life-sustaining skills to torso-holding offspring for 2 – 3 months;
  • Nurse offspring the first 12 months;
  • Scream warnings of predatory mammal, raptorian, reptilian invasions;
  • Vocalize community-affirming kyaw-kyaws.

Faunal and floral food sources enable blue-bellied, brownish grey-furred, flat-muzzled, pink-faced, round-headed Taiwanese rock macaques to mature to:

  • Head-and-body lengths of 14.17 – 21.26 inches (36 – 54 centimeters);
  • Tail lengths of 14.17 – 17.72 inches (36 – 45 centimeters);
  • Weights of 8.82 – 19.84 pounds (4 – 9 kilograms).

Two-year-old males establish bordering, independent territories while same-aged females occupy birth communities of 10 – 45 members.


Kaapi Monkey Coffee: available for brewing at George House Fine Coffee

Tainan, southern Taiwan
Tainan, southern Taiwan

Conclusion: Sharing caffeine appreciation with Formosan Rock Macaques


Unlike Formosan rock macaques, monkey parchment coffees are not endemic to Taiwan. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu can be identified as India’s monkey parchment coffee bean and brew suppliers. Clean aromas and clear tastes apparently come from berry-like fruits being consumed and duo- or uni-seeded, parchment- and silver skin-enveloped, saliva-impacted pits being eliminated or expectorated. The beverage’s name indeed derives from pits appearing grey-hued, not green-colored. The drink’s enjoyment additionally increases with knowledge that:

  • Amylase and sun-drying alter bitterness and acidity;
  • Animals go unpaid but also unsubjected to caging and force-feeding.

All monkey parchment coffees in general and Taiwan’s in particular may be appreciated therefore as hot drinks whose balanced acidity and sweetness encourage consumption as unforgettable espressos.


Kaapi Monkey Coffee at George House Fine Coffee

Tainan, southern Taiwan
Tainan, southern Taiwan



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


George House Fine Coffee: brewing ambiance

Published on YouTube on December 15, 2012 by Jaysun Eats Taipei ~ URL:

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Group of Formosan Rock Macaques moving through forest in their natural habitat

natural environment
natural environment
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Sunrise, Hohuanshan mountain, Taroko Gorge National Park, Hualien County, central Taiwan: photo by Christian Kober

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top.
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 01/03/2022, DerdriuMarriner
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