A Cup of Dumbo
Using animals’ digestive tracks to ‘filter’ coffee is not a new idea. While once being the hype of the barista world, Kopi Luwak, digested by civets has lost its reputation. Nowadays it is associated with mistreating the animals by locking them into tiny cages and feeding them nothing but coffee cherries. Today there is a supersized version promising no harm to its mammal filtering systems:
“An artisanal process whereby the finest Arabica coffee cherries have been naturally refined by rescued elephants.”
Code for: your coffee came out of an elephant’s butthole – and it’s hella expensive!
Fancy brew extravaganza
Canadian Blake Dinkin is the brain behind Black Ivory Coffee. The brand prides itself in being “the most exotic and expensive coffee in the world”. It surely is: One kilogram goes for around $1,100 (about 1.040 €) – compared to Lavazza’s Super Crema Espresso, of which the same amount goes for about $20. Luxury hotels in Thailand, Singapore and the Maldives sell a cup Black Ivory Coffee for around $50 (circa 47 €). 8 percent of the coffee’s revenue fund a vet specialized in elephant care in Thailand.
But, why is this coffee so expensive? you may wonder. Well, the answer lies in the manufacturing process.
Piece of shits
About 20 elephants live and work on a reserve of the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation near Chiang Saen, Northern Thailand – a region also famous for it’s opium cultivation.
Here, coffee cherries are mixed in with fruits and rice and fed to the animals. Later they are collected from the elephant’s poop. During their digestion process, which can take anywhere between 15 and 70 hours, enzymes break down protein in the beans. Less protein means less bitterness in your morning cuppa, which has a “delicate tea-like complexity and notes of chocolate, malt, grass and spice”.
But, like everything involving animals, it can be unpredictable. The appetite of the animals also influences the price. Equally important is the number of cherries chewed up and how many intact ones can be retrieved from the Dumbos’ doo-doos. It takes a lot of beans to produce the coffee: 33 kilograms of raw cherries make up about 1 kilogram of sellable beans.
Eyesore for animal activists?
Although the Black Ivory Coffee company claims to be more animal friendly than other producers, animal advocators might disagree: chaining the animals – or “intelligent chaining” as the brand’s website states – is still involved. According to the manufacturer every elephant sanctuary in Thailand uses breakable restraints to allow “elephants to interact and to be with friends but also to spend time alone and away from other elephants if desired”.
If you want to learn more, watch this promotion video for Black Ivory Coffee:
A load of crap
Besides the jitter juices produced by Thai elephants or civets, there are numerous other types of poop brews. Everything from Brazilian Jacu birds to Bonobo monkeys or Uchunari, mammals native to Peru.
As Tony Wild states in his article about Kopi Luwak:
“I'm fully expecting celebrity-digested designer crap coffee to be next down the line.”
References “Black Ivory Coffee” Official Homepage http://www.blackivorycoffee.com (15.10.2016) “The Story Of Black Ivery Coffee” The Elephant Story http://the-elephant-story.com/pages/black-ivory-coffee (15.10.2016) “Elephant dung coffee: Black Ivory beans passed through the animals' guts” The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinkpicturegalleries/9737226/Elephant-dung-coffee-Black-Ivory-beans-passed-through-the-animals-guts.html (30.11.2016) Payne, Emily “Would you try elephant dung coffee? Luxury Thailand hotel serves up distinctive brew using beans collected from droppings“ DailyMail from 10.06.2015 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3117942/Would-try-elephant-dung-coffee-Luxury-Thailand-hotel-serves-distinctive-brew-using-beans-collected-droppings.html (15.10.2016)