Ten years in the making, BLACK IVORY COFFEE is created through a process whereby coffee beans are naturally refined by street rescued Thai elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation www.helpingelephants.org in Chiang Saen, (Northern) Thailand. It begins with selecting the best 100% Thai Arabica beans that have been picked from an altitude as high as 1500 meters. Once deposited by the elephants, the individual beans are hand-picked by the Mahouts and their wives and then sun-dried and roasted. Approximately 8800 beans are picked for each kilogram of roasted coffee; thus, 33 kilograms of coffee cherries are required to produce just one kilogram of BLACK IVORY COFFEE. The world's rarest and most expensive coffee.
As a result of our commitment to elephant conservation and welfare, 8% of Black Ivory Coffee sales will help fund a specialist elephant veterinarian to provide free care to elephants in Thailand through the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. Additional funds will also be used to purchase medicine to treat sick elephants.
Production of BLACK IVORY COFFEE also provides valuable income generation for the wives of the mahouts to help cover health expenses, school fees, food, and clothing. We pay women 100 baht per kilogram of coffee cherry. In contrast an average coffee picker earns 7 baht per kilogram in Thailand. As a result the women who work for us can earn a legal day's wage in 45 minutes.
Are the elephants affected by the caffeine?
No. Green coffee beans have quite an amazing design as the shell of the bean acts as a protective barrier to the coffee oils that are inside. Further, in order to extract the caffeine, heat is necessary. This is why coffee is roasted at roughly 200C and brewed at 93C. Adding further security for the elephant is the skin and pulp of the coffee bean. Blood work has been completed by independent veterinarians to confirm that there has been no harm to the elephants. An elephant veterinarian is also on-site at the the production site full-time.
BLACK IVORY COFFEE uses 100% Thai Arabica beans. Arabica beans contain approximately 1% caffeine. In contrast, Robusta beans contain double this amount.
Yes. In times of drought, Asian elephants are attracted to coffee plantations as many of them are irrigated and the elephants are drawn to the various fruits (coffee and others). Issues of farmers killing elephants as they invade their fields in search of coffee cherries have occured in parts of Asia and West Africa. Black Ivory Coffee is trying to take a negative situation (human-elephant conflict) and turn it into a positive. Black Ivory Coffee is a beverage as well as an experience that benefits elephants.
Research by Dr. Marcone at the University of Guelph indicates that during digestion, the enzymes of the elephant break down coffee protein. Since protein is one of the main factors responsible for bitterness in coffee, less protein means almost no bitterness. As well, in contrast to carnivores (such as a civet), herbivores such as elephants use much more fermentation for digestion. Fermentation is desirable in coffee as it helps to impart the fruit from the coffee pulp into the bean in much the same way as grapes ferment in a VAT to make wine.
There is a coffee produced by civet cats. However, there are many examples of civets being placed in cages and farmed in Asia and Africa. This raises questions about the ethical treatment of civets. Civets are also believed to have transmitted SARS from animal to humans. In 2004, all civets (approximately 10,000) in Guangdong, China were exterminated by Chinese authorities. Based on analysis of civet coffee, Dr. Marcone estimates that 50% of civet coffee is counterfeit.
Production takes place at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. Blake Dinkin, founder of BLACK IVORY COFFEE, chose this foundation after doing research on approximately 35 elephant sanctuaries and parks in Indonesia, Laos and Thailand. GTAEF was chosen because of the conditions in which the elephants are kept, the presence of an on-site veterinarian, their approach to elephant conservation and very pragmatic, thoughtful leadership by John Roberts who is the Executive Director of the foundation.
Why Are Elephants Chained in a Sanctuary?
Chains on elephants have nothing to do with Black Ivory Coffee production. In Thailand every sanctuary uses chains for their elephants at some point during the day. It is the long term vision that Black Ivory coffee will eventually fund a herd of elephants that can live as wild purely by producing coffee while employing their erstwhile mahouts in the production and their care taking but this is still at least a few years away.
Meanwhile we work with elephants and mahouts that are very much part of the traditional human/elephant system and where elephants live together in less than natural spaces (especially those also used by humans) - the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) land is very large by elephant camp standards but it is not the endless forest of old - chaining is harmless and the best way to manage the situation.
GTAEF has electrically fenced recreation areas and a large grassland which allow the elephants time off the chains but even these times are supervised by mahouts, all camps in Thailand that have experimented with unsupervised free roaming elephants have had elephants kill elephants and/or humans and have had elephants shot or otherwise injured when they roam - these are not risks the GTAEF is prepared to take.
Intelligent chaining allows elephants to interact and to be with friends but also to spend time alone and away from other elephants if desired, all chains are breakable which is important in case of flood, fire or other emergency (or just desire not to be where they are) - and something another promoted alternative, zoo style penning, does not provide.
That said, all elephants at the GTAEF are given vastly more freedom, elephant interaction, better nutrition, veterinary care and a natural green environment than their previous lives when they were walking the streets of large cities and sleeping under underpasses.
While we'd ultimately like to see all elephants free, our goal at the moment has to be to improve the lives of as many as possible in a realistic manner that helps not only the elephants but also the peoples that have depended on them for a living for generations and who, if separated from their elephant, will source another and take that one onto the streets.
Please refer to the WHERE IT'S SOLD section. As we want to have a strong relationship with each new client, growth will take place slowly. Blake Dinkin personally flies out to each hotel to conduct training for staff and to allow cuppings to take place so that the servers can speak about BLACK IVORY COFFEE with first hand knowledge.