GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Thailand — In the lush hills of northern Thailand, a herd of 20 elephants is excreting some of the world’s most expensive coffee.
Trumpeted as earthy in flavor and smooth on the palate, the exotic new brew is made from beans eaten by Thai elephants and plucked a day later from their dung. A gut reaction inside the elephant creates what its founder calls the coffee’s unique taste.
“When an elephant eats coffee, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in bitterness,” said Blake Dinkin, who has spent $300,000 developing the coffee. “You end up with a cup that’s very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee.”
And, his artisanal process is labor-intensive. He uses pure Arabica beans hand-picked by hill-tribe women from a small mountain estate. Once the elephants do their business, the wives of elephant mahouts collect the dung, break it open and pick out the coffee. After a thorough washing, the coffee cherries are processed to extract the beans, which are then brought to a gourmet roaster in Bangkok.
At $500 per pound, it’s among the world’s priciest.
For now, only the wealthy or well-traveled have access to Black Ivory Coffee. It was launched last month at a few luxury hotels in remote corners of the world with the price tag of about $50 a serving.