The platinum bean of the coffee world now comes out of an elephant’s rear end. Two cups of the so-called Black Ivory coffee cost around $50, while a pound of the digested beans total a tidy $500, Time reports.
The elephants hail from northern Thailand, where a herd of about 20 animals snack on coffee beans in order to create internal magic. Supposedly, a chemical reaction within the elephants’ guts gives the coffee its unique taste. From luxury hotels in Thailand, this latest coffee creation has so far spread to the Maldives and Abu Dhabi, the Associated Press reports on AZcentral.
Blake Dinkin, the Canadian developer behind the coffee who invested $300,000 in its creation, told AP, “When an elephant eats coffee, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in bitterness. You end up with a cup that’s very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee.”
The elephant’s massive stomach takes between 15 to 30 hours to digest the coffee beans, which stew alongside bananas, sugar cane and other veggie delights from the elephant’s diet. Supposedly, this concoction bestows the beans with an earthy fruitiness. It takes about 72 pounds of raw coffee cherries to produce 2 pounds of Black Ivory coffee. Most beans get chewed up or lost in the animals’ excrement. The coffee’s exclusivity and price tag perhaps increase its allure, however. The coffee’s 150-pound maiden batch has sold out, and customers eagerly away the 2013 product.
So far, conservationists’ fears for the elephants’ health have proved unfounded. The animals do not seem to be affected by the caffeine, and 8 percent of the coffee’s total sales goes towards the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a refuge for rescued animals.
As coffee connoisseurs are aware, elephants are not the only mammals in the bean-excreting business. Civet coffee—also referred to as weasel coffee—scores highly with locals in Vietnam, while New York-based importers charge around $340 for one pound of the stuff. While civet-poo coffee traditionally used Robusta beans but has recently moved towards Arabica, the elephants are firmly in the Arabica pot, at least so far.
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