Would you pay US$50 for a cup of elephant dung coffee?
Civet dung coffee? Old news. The big story these days is coffee made with beans that have been pooped out by elephants.
At least that's the claim of Thailand's Anantara hotels, which refines its own beans at its massive elephant camp behind its Golden Triangle resort in Chiang Rai. (More on that below.)
"Research indicates that during digestion, the enzymes of the elephant break down coffee protein," says the resort in a release. "Since protein is one of the main factors responsible for bitterness in coffee, less protein means almost no bitterness."
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But bitter-free coffee comes with a price. Black Ivory, as elephant dung coffee is called, retails at US$1,100 per kilo -- or $50 a cup -- making it one of the most expensive cups of Joe in the world.
In comparison, civet poop coffee -- which is made with the same concept: animal eats coffee, digestion breaks down the protein -- retails for about US$500-600 per kilo, or US$30 a cup.
For now, Black Ivory is only available at Anantara's four resorts in the Maldives, in addition to the group's Golden Triangle resort in northern Thailand.
Beans handpicked from elephant dung
Anantara says the process begins by selecting top Thai Arabica cherries -- the beans are inside -- that have been picked at an altitude of 1,500 meters. The elephants willingly eat them, before they're digested and then excreted, as nature dictates.
The individual beans are handpicked by the camp's mahouts (elephant trainers) and their wives, then dried in the sun.
Refinement of the coffee takes place at Anantara's Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), a camp set on the grounds of the resort.
The foundation has, to date, rescued 30 street elephants along with their mahouts and families. Eight percent of all coffee sales will be donated to GTAEF.
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The obvious question to come out of all this: isn't it dangerous to get a bunch of elephants hooked on caffeine?
Anantara's director of elephants, John Roberts, addressed the issue in a recent blog post, saying he was initially concerned with the idea, wondering "what on earth are we going to do with 26 wired elephants -- or, on the flip side, like me before the old ristretto each morning, what are we going to do with 26 extremely bad-tempered elephants who haven’t had their coffee on the days when there is none?
"Well, I learned ... that for caffeine to be bought out of a coffee bean you need to heat it to above 70 C."
Would you pay US$1,100 for a kilo of coffee just to get rid of the bitterness? Ever tried civet poop coffee? Share your caffeine-related comments in the box below.