Written by Staff Writer
11 Jun, 2015 | 4:54 pm
In the Green hills of northern Thailand, a woman painstakingly picks coffee beans out of a pile of elephant dung, an essential part of making one the world’s most expensive beverages.
This remote corner of Thailand, bordering Myanmar and Laos, is better known for drug smuggling than coffee, but Blake Dinkin decided it was perfect for a legitimate enterprise that blends conservation with business.
“When I explained my project to the mahouts (elephant riders), I know that they thought I was crazy,” said the 44-year-old Canadian founder of Black Ivory Coffee, which uses the digestive tract of elephants to create a high-end brew for coffee connoisseurs,
Initially, he considered using civet cats to make “kopi luwak” coffee, which uses beans collected from the droppings of the Asian cats. But the quality of the end product has weakened as demand has grown in Southeast Asia — including in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Civet cats are also often kept in cages and force-fed beans, a chasm away from Dinkin’s desire to support rather than damage the environment.
Lions and giraffes also made the shortlist of prospective coffee filters, but eventually Dinkin settled on elephants after discovering that the creatures sometimes eat coffee during periods of drought in Southeast Asia.
Here’s the catch: His Black Ivory Coffee is made by passing coffee beans through the not insubstantial stomachs of elephants and then picking the beans out of, well, yeah, that. It’s similar to Kopi Luwak, the civet coffee that was all the rage a few years back; Dinkin has just supersized the idea. He knows Kopi Luwak’s image has been trashed because of concerns over counterfeiting, disease and animal abuse. But he insists there’s nothing fake — or frivolous — about Black Ivory Coffee.
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