Friday, 2 November 2012

A Crappy Cup of Coffee

One of the great things about living in Sydney is its coffee - it really is the best in the world (praise be to Buzzzbar, Newtown, for my morning fix). Or is it? It’s certainly not the most expensive - that honour goes to ... drum roll ... Thailand, where my friends from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation have produced a brew worth its weight in gold.

Trouble is, it’s shit. Quite literally. Or at least, derived from shit. Pardon my French.

Called Black Ivory coffee, this exclusive drop - offered to guests at Anantara resorts in Thailand and the Maldives - is made from Thai Arabica coffee beans digested by elephants, dispersed in their dung, then recollected and sun-dried before being roasted and brewed using an antique ‘balancing syphon’ method developed in Austria in 1840.

Two cups of elephant poo coffee cost US$50; a kilo of digested beans sells for $1100. Only 50 kilograms of the beans are currently available for sale, while the eles work on creating more.

According to elephant guru John Roberts, enzymes in an elephant’s stomach break down coffee protein, subsequently reducing bitterness. He describes it in his blog ( as “very light coffee whose aroma puts you in mind of returning to a proper jungle after a long absence... the sense of steam and vegetation that a well inhabited jungle just has.” Think that means it’s hot, pungent and steamy ... as all good coffee should be.

Of course, elephants aren’t the first animals put to work in the creation of coffee. In Indonesia, beans digested by civet cats were once the most expensive in the world, at $340 for a pound. Mind you, I’d rather drink beans that came through a vegetarian mammal’s tract rather than a stinky carnivore that’s been eating rat guts...

And of course, the elephants get something back - a percentage of all coffee sales goes back to GTAEF, which cares for 30 rescued street elephants, along with their mahouts and families. Which doesn’t leave a bitter taste at all.

contemplating a good cup of coffee on an Anantara elephant


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