Elephant poop coffee: Maybe I’ll just have a cup of tea, thanks

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Buzz

No matter how fussy you are about your brew, there comes a cup in every coffee lover's java career that's so horrendous, so weak, so sour to make you exclaim, "This coffee tastes like crap!"

Thanks to the marvel of engineering, a Canadian entrepreneur is hoping to flip the script on crap and turn it into the world's most prized cuppa joe.

Black Ivory Coffee, the brainchild of businessman Blake Dinkin, sells artisanal coffee made from beans that have been digested and excreted by Thai elephants.

This is an accurate description of their harvesting process.

A herd of 20 elephants in the Golden Triangle region of Thailand spends its days chewing on handpicked Thai Arabica coffee beans (among other fun, elephant-y activities). Their digestive systems behave as a sort of "slow cooker," taking 15-30 hours to break down the beans in a gastric stew comprised of sugar cane, bananas and other key elements of the pachyderms' vegetarian diet.

Then they poop.

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Afterward, a team of what we can only hope are well-compensated employees proceeds to sort through the excrement and gather the beans.

The coffee cherries are processed to extract the beans, which are finally sent to a gourmet roaster in Bangkok.

It's this process that gives the coffee its smooth, "earthy" flavour.

"When an elephant eats coffee, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in bitterness," Dinkin told the Associated Press. "You end up with a cup that's very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee."

Dinkin, who says he's invested $300,000 in the coffee's development, hopes the unusual brew becomes a hit with specialty coffee fans and folks who are willing to shill out for quality product.

And he will likely have to depend on this market, as the price tag makes your average $5 Starbucks latte look like a steal: Each kilogram of Black Ivory Coffee will run you $1,100, working out to approximately $50 per cup.

The expense comes from the extremely high production cost. Elephant upkeep sets Dinkin back $1,000 a month per pachyderm and because of the system's inefficiencies, it takes 33 kg of raw coffee cherries to end up with 1 kg of the finished product.

But despite the litany of bad jokes this scenario inspires, the AP reports that the company is committed to sustainability and the health of its herd.

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Dinkin initially worked with a Canadian veterinarian to ensure the elephants wouldn't be at risk of absorbing any caffeine from the raw coffee cherries.

"As far as we can tell there is definitely no harm to the elephants," John Roberts, director of elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, told the news network.

Eight per cent of the coffee's sales go straight back into the foundation, a "refuge for rescued elephants."

Black Ivory Coffee has also provided a boost to the local economy, including fair wage employment for elephant mahouts and their wives.

Though it's only available in a smattering of luxury resorts, Dinkin's bid has so far proved successful. His test batch of 70 kg has sold out and he hopes to increase that output by six-fold in the coming year.

So if you're now curious to sample your own "crap-accino" you may have to hold your curiosity in a little longer.

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