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Thailand produces one of the world’s most expensive coffees. The coffee beans that go to make “Black Ivory Coffee” are naturally processed as they pass through elephants’ stomachs. The luxury beverage can be drunk in some five star hotels – in Thailand, on the Maldives and in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. A portion weighing 35 grams costs just under 34 euros.

Stomach enzymes for that special flavour

Over 700 kilometres north of Bangkok, in Chiang Rai Province there’s a herd of 25 elephants that are fed on arabica coffee beans. It takes around 24 hours for the beans to pass, virtually unchanged, through the elephants’ digestive systems. Enzymes in the animals’ stomachs break down certain proteins in the coffee beans making the coffee less bitter. The slow fermentation process produces a uniquely smooth flavour with overtones of chocolate. The elephants don’t get hyper from all that coffee, because the caffeine is only released when the beans are heated.

Sorted by hand and dried in the sun

The high price is the result of the laborious production process. The elephants have to be fed 33 kilograms of coffee cherries to produce one kilogram of this special coffee, explains Blake Dinkin, the Canadian who developed the coffee, on the Black Ivory website. A lot of the beans excreted by the animals are lost, for example, if the elephants defecate in water. The mahouts and their wives pick the beans by hand out of the elephant dung. They are then sundried and roasted. In 2012, the Black Ivory Coffee company produced 50 kilograms of this mild and aromatic coffee. The aim is to increase this to around 300 kilograms a year within a few years

And what about civet coffee?

A similar specialty coffee, "kopi luwak", has been on the market for a while. It’s produced in Indonesia and Vietnam by allowing small mammals called palm civets to eat the coffee cherries and collecting the undigested beans from their faeces. Civet coffee is said to have a rich, smooth flavour with hints of caramel and chocolate.


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de