Kopi luwak, or civet cofee, where beans pass through the digestive system of a civet cat, has been around for a long time.It’s got a reputation for subtle, rich flavours not normally found in coffee, and the difficulty of harvesting it keeps the price high.
Now, though, a small herd of elephants in Thailand is helping to produce coffee that may rival kopi luwak in price. Coffee brewers have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds developing the new flavour, which involves feeding the elephants with a mixture of fruit, rice and coffee cherries. The digestive process, which takes 15 to 30 hours, helps to impart a unique flavour to the beans, which are then excreted out the following day. Apparently, the elephant’s stomach acid works to break down the coffee’s protein, which is one of the main factors that give raw beans their bitter flavour, leading to a much smoother, sweeter taste.
The dry dung is collected in sacks, and the coffee cherries are painstakingly picked out by hand, one of the factors that makes the whole process so labour intensive and contributes to the high cost. You’ll be glad to hear that the next stage is a thorough washing of the cherries before the beans are extracted and sent to Bangkok for roasting. It takes over 30kg of coffee cherries to produce just 1kg of beans, as many are lost or irrevocably chewed during the process.
All that coffee doesn’t seem to do the elephants any harm, and tests seem to show that they don’t absorb any caffeine during the process. 8 per cent of sales now go to a refuge for rescued elephants, so the main contributors to the process are getting something out of it!
The finished coffee, sold under the name Black Ivory, is very difficult to get hold of as it’s produced in such small quantities.
Here at Rijo 42, we can’t claim to stock the world’s most expensive coffee – but we do sell great-tasting blends that are much easier to get your hands on! To check out our range, visit our coffee page.