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The one thing that doesn’t – and won’t ever – go well with any food nor beverage has now become one of the world’s most expensive and rarest commodity. Similar to how Kopi Luwak is produced, elephants – instead of civet – digest coffee berries that supposedly break down the proteins of the coffee beans. For the next few hours or days, the elephants would excrete the treasured beans, anticipated by coffee enthusiasts and farmers in the hills of Northern Thailand.

Doesn’t sound appetizing…

And I second that.

Regardless of it being hilariously known as “crappacino”, “good until the last dropping” or “coffee No.2”: the process is labour-extensive and expensive.

How expensive, you ask? About US$1000 per kilogram, which is about US$50 to US$60 per cup.

PHOTO: Flickr via CCO

The man behind this peculiar idea is a Canadian entrepreneur Blake Dinkin; founder of the Black Ivory Coffee Company – a sole producer of the artisanal coffee. Although inspired by Kopi Luwak and the natural process of animals, the two coffee types are different in a few aspects. First, the herbivorous elephants utilize fermentation and break down cellulose which would make the coffee sweeter and less bitter.

“The aroma is floral and chocolate; the taste is chocolate malt with a bit of cherry; there’s no bitterness; and it’s very soft, like tea. So it’s kind of like a cross between coffee and tea.”– Blake Dinkin in National Public Radio.

The preceding sister coffee – Kopi Luwak – has had a lot of infamous controversies. Since the coffee is highly sought after and makes a lucrative business, farmers throughout some South-East-Asian countries have operated cage-battery farms. They would force-feed the captured wild civets – now regarded as an endangered animal – for a cheaper production with a high return. Several Environmental NGOs as well as the man himself, Tony Wild – responsible for bringing kopi luwak to the west – had condemned the coffee ever since further investigation took place.

Unlike Kopi Luwak, the Black Ivory Coffee Company doesn’t take the welfare of the elephants and labour lightly; vets are hired, workers are paid fairly and a portion of proceeds is for Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand. The company also strictly prohibits the rare coffee beans from being mass-produced to be sold in retail stores and therefore served only in selected cafes and five-star hotels.

Has the coffee world gone too far and mad? Maybe. It’s definitely not a type of coffee that would easily substitute the regular Arabica or Robusta. It is essentially caviar in the coffee world – an acquired taste delicacy so rare; it is reserved only for the discerning few.

But please don’t be inspired to feed your pets and farm animals with coffee cherries just because it has worked with civets and elephants – thinking that it would be the next big thing.

Would I try it if I had the chance? Out of curiosity, sure – why not? As for now though, I think I am content with my regular cup o’ joe.


Syaza is a freelance writer whose life revolves around coffee, cats and heartwarming stories.