30th
Sep
2013

Posted in Kafevend Blog

The coffee featured in today's blog is the most expensive in the world. Despite production increasing from 70kg in 2012 to 300kg this year, it's comparative rarity means that it is only available in a few five star hotels situated mainly in Thailand and the Maldives. We are talking here about Black Ivory Coffee, coffee that has been processed through the digestive tract of the world's largest land animal. Actually, to be pedantic, the second largest land animal, because this coffee is produced at the Golden Elephant Triangle Foundation in Northern Thailand by Indian elephants; African elephant are larger.

The Canadian coffee entrepreneur Blake Dinkin became interested in kopi luwak/civet coffee (read about it here) around ten years ago. Having attempted to set up a civet coffee partnership in Ethiopia, he was put off by a range of problems, including disease and the poor conditions associated with intensive civet farming. Dinkin was keen to make coffee with an animal that wasn't being exploited or force fed. He knew it also needed to be monogastric, i.e. no chewing the cud, and that a steady supply of high quality Arabica beans would be required.

Years of research resulted in Black Ivory Coffee. An incredible 33kg of coffee cherries are required to produce just 1kg of it; most beans get chewed and broken or are lost once excreted. Nevertheless, as much dung as possible is collected and sifted through for coffee cherries. It takes the elephants between fifteen and thirty hours to digest their food, allowing enzymes plenty of time to break down coffee protein, which diminishes the bitterness. As a herbivore, an elephant's digestion also uses fermentation to a greater extent, thought to help impart fruity tones. Vets have confirmed that the green coffee beans included in the elephants' diet are not harmful to them.  Asian elephants eat coffee beans naturally anyway during periods of drought when they gravitate to irrigated coffee plantations.

So if money is no object, it could time to book into one of those five star hotels and savour a cup or two!

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