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Black Ivory coffee: Elephant dung is in the world’s most expensive cup of joe

Nadine Bells
Shine On
October 22, 2012

For coffee connoisseurs out there, you might want to add a cup of this java to your bucket list: Black Ivory coffee.

Forget kopi luwak, the costly coffee excreted by the civet cat. The newest and priciest coffee to make headlines comes from coffee beans in the dung of Thai elephants.

The elephants ingest the beans, and after they are excreted they are cleaned and used to make the coffee.

Black Ivory coffee, one of the most exclusive beverages on the planet, retails for more than $1,100 a kilogram — plus the cost of getting to Thailand or the Maldives to buy it.

Young Canadian, Blake Dinkin, founded the Black Ivory Coffee Company. And now just one resort in the Maldives offers the limited brew.

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Supply and demand is also an issue.  The company guesses supply will increase in 2013, and with only 50 kilograms currently for sale that could pose a problem.

"Only high-grade Thai Arabica seed cherries are selected at an altitude of 1500 metres. It takes 33 kilograms to produce one kilo of Black Ivory. Once digested the elephant handlers pick the coffee cherries out of the elephant dung by hand and lay them out to dry in the sun," the West Australian reports.

The $50-a-serving coffee is said to smell floral and chocolatey, with the taste containing notes of "milk chocolate, nutty, earthy with hints of spice and red berries," ABC News reports.

It also has a less bitter taste because enzymes from the elephants' stomach break down protein in the coffee beans, which is said to be responsible for bitterness.

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Garrett, a CNN commenter who tried the beverage while in the Maldives, shares his experience.

"I was fortunate enough to try this last week at the Anantara location in the Maldives. The taste was really pleasant and unexpected. I could taste chocolate, nuts (hold back the jokes), red berries and it was very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee. In fact it was one of the first cups I could drink black."

He found the coffee was actually more affordable than expected.

"The cost (at least where we were) was around US$68/serving, not cup. A serving serves about 4 - 4.5 espresso cups so it actually works out to around US$15/cup."

The coffee-making elephants are cared for at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) in Thailand, an elephant conservation program. Eight per cent of the coffee's proceeds go back to the foundation, ABC News reports.

The West Australian reassures readers that the coffee beans aren't harmful to the pachyderms, nor are the elephants forced to eat them.

It's pricey. It's in short supply. And it's not available on this continent. But if you could, would you try Black Ivory coffee?

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