In Thailand’s northeastern Surin province, dozens of hands sift through elephant dung to bring you the most expensive coffee in the world. It is so! Canadian coffee maker Blake Dinkin conceived of these one-of-a-kind coffee beans and began producing them in 2012 (via Bangkok Post).
Dinkin began his career in the coffee industry by producing Kopi Luwak coffee, a sort of spiritual precursor to the beans he sells today (although “beans” is not exactly the correct term, as coffee beans are the pits of coffee cherries). The production of Kopi Luwak begins with feeding these cherries to civets, which consume the fruit pulp. The beans ferment as they travel through the digestive systems of the animals before, well, coming out the other end. Dinkin eventually abandoned Kopi Luwak due to animal cruelty concerns, but he believed he could conduct a similar enterprise with elephants in a more ethical manner. You can probably anticipate where this will lead.
Black ivory coffee is processed similarly to Kopi Luwak, but with elephants. Dinkin chose to work with these enormous herbivores for two reasons, the first being that they are naturally herbivorous (via NPR). Another factor that appealed to Dinkin was the opportunity to combine business with a noble cause. Elephants from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a rescue and rehabilitation organization, produce Black Ivory coffee. The animals consume a mixture of local Arabica coffee beans from the surrounding mountains and fruits such as banana and tamarind, according to Black Ivory Coffee Company. After 12 to 72 hours, the beans emerge from the opposite side.
As with Kopi Luwak, exposing the beans to digestive enzymes breaks down proteins that can produce bitter notes, resulting in a milder, slightly nutty brew, as reported by NPR.