Photo by Greg Rodgers
Look out civets, there's a new animal processing the world's most expensive coffee: Thai elephants.
The original 'poo coffee', Indonesia's kopi luwak is produced by feeding civets -- small, weasel-like animals -- coffee fruit then later retrieving the beans from their droppings. Supposedly, enzymes in the digestive system break down proteins that produce bitterness in the coffee, yielding a smoother roast.
Anantara Resorts' new Black Ivory Coffee is processed exclusively by Thai elephants and is claimed to be even better, as elephants are herbivores and know more about what they're doing. Not to mention that much of the civet coffee sold to tourists is fake now days anyway.
While two pounds of civet coffee beans can cost around US $600, that same amount produced by Thai elephants may cost you a staggering US $1,100! A single cup can cost around US $50.
But why so expensive? First, keeping elephants isn't exactly cheap. Black Ivory coffee comes from rescued elephants, and 8% of coffee sales are promised to go back to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.
The elephants are fed only Thai Arabica coffee beans grown at an altitude of around 5,000 feet. While they may be connoisseurs, they aren't entirely efficient: Elephants must eat more than 72 pounds of coffee cherries to produce 2.2 pounds of coffee beans!
No one can confirm yet if 72 pounds of coffee cherries produces a caffeine buzz in elephants.
For die-hard aficionados searching for a new coffee frontier, this is it. But you won't find Black Ivory on the menu at Starbucks; you'll have to visit one of the Anantara Resorts in the Maldives or close to Chiang Rai, north of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.