Not a Bottomless Cup of Coffee

Rich.  Earthy.  Smooth. Fruity. Wild. Exotic. Unlike anything I’ve ever had before… Many words have been used to describe the coffee, created from fine Arabica beans digested and excreted by elephants in Northern Thailand.

Not surprisingly, this Black Ivory Coffee, culled from elephant dung, has been the butt of many jokes. “Crap-acino” and “Good to the last dropping,” for example. Or Leno: “Who is the first person that saw a bunch of coffee beans and a pile of elephant dung and said, ‘You know, if I ground those up and drank it, I bet that would be delicious’?”

Jokes aside, the coffee is supposed to be delicious and unlike anything you’ve had before. At $50 a cup, it is the world’s most expensive coffee, so don’t expect free refills.

To justify the price of this luxury food item, the coffee’s creator, Canadian Blake Dinkin, explains that coffee cherries, picked at altitudes as high as 1,500 meters, are fed to the 20 or so elephants, of the Golden Elephant Triangle Foundation, and at the other end are hand-picked by mahouts and their wives. They are then sun-dried and brought to a gourmet roaster in Bangkok. Many of the beans get chewed up by the elephants, broken or lost in tall grass, so 33 kilograms of coffee cherries are required to make one kilogram of coffee. Apparently Dinkin spent about $300,000 to develop the process creating Black Ivory Coffee.

During the 15 to 20 hours that the elephant digests the beans, its stomach acids break down the protein in coffee that causes bitterness, leaving only a heavenly smoothness. Furthermore, Dinkin points out, the beans stew with bananas, sugar cane and other ingredients in the massive herbivore’s gut, infusing them with unique earthy and fruity flavors.

If you are lucky enough to have the luxury lifestyle that allows you to try this elephant brew, you can also rest easy that such decadent indulgence is balanced by the fact that your money also does some good. About eight per cent of sales help fund a specialist elephant veterinarian who provides care to elephants throughout Thailand via the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. The coffee production also provides valuable income for the mahouts and their wives, helping to cover health expenses, school fees, food and clothing.

And don’t worry about what the elephants getting caffeinated from their diet. The pachyderms are unaffected, since they don’t absorb caffeine from the raw coffee cherries.

If you want to try the coffee, don’t rush out to your local Starbutts.  Launched late last year, Black Ivory Coffee is only available through five-star hotels in Northern Thailand and the Maldives. In case you’re in the area, perhaps staying at one of the LaCure luxury Thailand villas, here’s a list of  places where you can sip this liquid gold:

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