Coffee lovers, if you thought that the “Kopi Luwak” was a strange way of making coffee, then this one is going to send your taste buds into an overdrive.
“Kopi Luwak” or civet coffee, which originates from Indonesia, refers to the seeds of coffee berries once they have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet, a shy cat-like wild creature. Over the past few decades, it has been branded the ultimate “bling” coffee and a celebrity in its own right because you can bet that it’s hella expensive, priced anywhere between USD120- USD600 per pound.
Sure, it does look a little gross knowing that what’s pictured above came from a civet’s butt. But that, my friends, is considered “exotic”. Dung or no dung. In fact, according to TMI, it’s so popular that even certain Malaysian individuals have taken it upon themselves to come up with their own version of “Kopi Luwak” known as “Musang Coffee”.
We need to also note that despite the fame that “Kopi Luwak” has garnered over the years, it has also gained quite a reputation for being a cruel industry. In a report by The Guardian, the naturally shy and solitary nocturnal creatures suffer greatly from the stress of being caged in proximity to other luwaks, and the unnatural emphasis on coffee cherries in their diet causes other health problems too; they fight among themselves, gnaw off their own legs, start passing blood in their scats, and frequently die.
Anyway, we digress. Our point to all of the above facts is that in Thailand, people have begun making elephant dung coffee. According to AFP via Yahoo! News, in a remote corner of Thailand bordering Myanmar and Laos, one 44-year-old Canadian is overseeing this project – using the digestive tract of elephant to create a high-end brew for coffee connoisseurs.
Black Ivory Coffee founder Blake Dinkin said that he decided on going ahead with the project because it was “a perfect legitimate enterprise that blends conservation with business”. He revealed that lions and giraffes also made the shortlist of prospective coffee filters, but eventually he settled on elephants after discovering that the creatures sometimes eat coffee during periods of drought in Southeast Asia.
How does it work?
According to Blake:
The enzymes in the elephant’s stomach function as a kind of slow cooker, where the coffee beans marinate alongside the herbs and fruits the animal also eats. As the beans work their way through the elephant’s digestive tract – a 17-hour process – the digestive acid takes the bitterness out of the bean. The mahouts’ (a “mahout” is a person who rides an elephant) wives collect the coffee beans from the elephant dung, before washing and drying them in the sun, a division of labour that is helping to boost the local community’s income.
To make a kilo of coffee, the elephants have to have consumed around 33 kilos of the beans, along with their usual ration of rice and bananas.
“I lose a lot of beans in the bath in the morning,” he said, explaining that the elephants sometimes defecate in the river while bathing. And just in case that you’re under the impression that this could be a cruel trade, Blake also added that he has teamed up with an elephant rescue charity which saves the creatures from the tourist trade.
Black Ivory coffee will soon be available at high-end establishments in Paris, Zurich, Copenhagen and Moscow. But for now it is sold exclusively at luxury hotels in Asia, mostly in Thailand but also Singapore and Hong Kong.
Watch the video below:
Would you pay for it? Because according to Black Ivory Coffee’s Wikipedia page, it’s priced at USD1,100 per kilogram. Heck, would you try it even if it was given to you free of charge?
Let us know in the comments box below.