Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)
COFFEE MADE FROM
ELEPHANT AND CIVET DUNG
WHAT’S NEXT? BEER?
How’s that coffee you’re enjoying this morning? Would you like a cup of brew with a much better flavor? One that allegedly has an earthy flavor said to be smooth on the palate?
How far would you travel for that specialty coffee?
This week I wrote an article, What About Those Circus Elephants?, on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which officially ended elephant acts in its circus May 1, 2016. As of two days ago, according to what was announced on WQED radio, the beasts enjoyed their first vegetarian meal at Ringling’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
I informed you in the article the 300 pounds of elephant dung excreted by the elephants daily is a nutrient-rich manure helping gardeners produce bumper crops. Thus, the retired elephants have a means of continuing to contribute to society.
It’s what I didn’t include in the article that I’m pondering as I sit in my comfy chair, warmed by two curled up cats—one claiming my lap, the other beside me—and sipping a warm cup of java.
I didn’t write more about elephant dung.
Don’t yield to your desire to quit reading. You’ll miss what makes that thar’ elephant dung pure magic, pure gold. There’s an extraordinary use for Number 2 elephant excrement.
Would you travel to a luxury hotel in a remote corner of the world and pay $50 for a dainty demitasse-cup-size of cuppa? Would you travel to northern Thailand, the Maldives, or Abu Dhabi to sip Black Ivory Coffee, the world’s most expensive, exclusive, and oddest specialty coffee which made its debut in April 2016?
Some people would.
The coffee, produced in the Golden Triangle in Thailand, has a price tag of $1,100 per kilogram ($500 per pound). Yet, truth be told, this coffee is brewed from beans eaten by Thai elephants and plucked from their dung the next day.
As I ponder this I consider working 8, 10, 12 hours a day plucking coffee beans out of elephant excrement.
Don’t quit reading now.
What happens between the time the elephant ingests the coffee beans and when they are excreted? What happens to them while they’re in the elephant’s gut?
- first, the beans which mix with the other contents of the elephant’s stomach: bananas, sugar cane and other ingredients from his vegetarian diet
- second, the ingredients stew together in the elephant’s gut (think of it as a slow cooker) for the 15-30 hours it takes the elephant to digest them
- third, the ‘stew’ is excreted as dung
It’s theorized that a natural fermentation process takes place in the elephant’s gut. During this process the elephant’s stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee—which is a key factor in bitterness. The resultant coffee, infused with unique earthy and fruity flavors, is very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee.
The gut reaction (pun intended) inside the elephant creates what its founder calls the coffee’s unique taste.
The result, apparently, is similar in civet coffee, or kopi luwak.
Civet coffee? I had to look this up. I learned that civet coffee is, like elephant coffee, an exorbitantly expensive variety extracted from the excrement of the weasel-like civet. Its story has, like that of elephant coffee, a certain repulsive charm.
A web site told of civet coffee’s humble proletarian beginning. As folklore has it, kopi luwak was discovered by plantation workers in colonized Indonesia who were forbidden from consuming coffee beans picked from the plants. Instead, they picked up, cleaned and roasted beans excreted by wild Asian palm civets that entered the plantations and ate the ripest coffee cherries. The civets’ digestive systems gave kopi luwak a uniquely rich aroma and smooth, rounded flavor — so much so that the Dutch plantation owners soon became die-hard fans.
In the past 10 years, kopi luwak has won the hearts — and wallets — of global consumers.
Suddenly I found myself in the midst of animal-rights activists. In 2013 investigators—journalists and animal-rights activists—revealed suppliers of kopi luwak, wanting to satisfy global demand, captured civets and caged them in appalling living conditions. They feed the caged civets almost exclusively on coffee cherries. The nocternal omnivores suffer mental distress and succumb to illness and death. These grim farms are not confined to Indonesia—farmers elsewhere in Asia have jumped on the bandwagon.
The justification for the exorbitant price of civet coffee is that kopi luwak is sourced from wild animals and only 500 kg of it is collected annually. The claim is largely nonsense.
If you’re in New York City or London you can purchase a cup of civet coffee for $30-100. The ultimate in caffeine bling, however, is civet coffee packed in a Britannia-silver and 24-carat gold-plated bag, sold at the British department store Harrods for over $10,000.
While on the computer I decided to research the cost of both elephant coffee and civet coffee. Not wanting to really delve into it I only checked Amazon.
Elephant coffee was unavailable according to my brief skimming search. A 4-ounce package of civet coffee, roasted in the United States and imported from the Phillipines, can be purchased for $44.95.
My coffee cup is now empty, and I must arouse the cats so I can start my day’s activities. With no real demands on my morning (I can easily bypass the clutter pick-up) I can work on my novel, She Saw Her Promised Land.
Oh, before I hit the publish icon, I must warn those of you who might enjoy a beer before bedtime, or with a meal. The world’s priciest coffee brand, Black Ivory Coffee, made using Thai Arabica beans predigested by elephants, tells BeverageDaily.com it’s searching for a reputable microbrewer in Japan to license a beer made using the brew.
Have a nice day.