Entrepreneur Blake Dinkin thinks he has found the next hot trend in pre-digested coffee beans: the elephant. His unique coffee growing, harvesting, and roasting process uses this mammoth mammal to hand(trunk?)-select coffee beans at the height of their ripeness, pass them through this intrepid coffee harvester, and then hand(truly)-select the beans from the excrement of the elephant before roasting.
Alright, if you are still reading, then you might have the stomach for such a coffee product, and you probably already know about Kopi Luwak coffee beans and the civet cat. Kopi Luwak coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, mostly due to the rarity created by the process involved in harvesting these coffee beans from the leavings of the civet cat. The beans, however, are transformed by the digestive enzymes of the civet and passed whole, the civet having digested the coffee berry from which it derives nutrition.
Blake Dinkin took nine years to develop the process by which his Black Ivory Coffee beans are produced, assuring those who think it is a gag coffee that his intent is quite serious. To the naysayers who are grossed out by this new breed of enzymatically-altered coffee bean, he suggests we remember that “honey is bee’s vomit and no one has a problem with that,” and he may be onto something. Kopi Luwak coffee received much the same reception but has remained a highly prized coffee variety.
Elephant Dung Coffee, Cat Poo Coffee, Racoon and Laboratory Coffee?
This trend of coffee altered through the chemistry of herbivores’ digestive tracts is not going away. In fact, it seems to be growing in popularity. As more coffee drinkers consume the oddly smooth, rounded flavor of these altered coffee beans and come to desire the traits that they possess, investment in finding ways to produce more coffee beans of such a caliber is likely to continue.
In Peru, coffee growers have begun harvesting the droppings Peruvian coati raccoons, a native animal that consumes the coffee berries in the region much as the civet cat does in Indonesia. Perhaps truly the future of enzymatically altered coffee, a laboratory at the University of Florida has attempted to alter coffee beans by laboratory means that emulate the digestive processes involved in the digestive tracts of the civet cat to produce laboratory-made Kopi Luwak coffee.
By whatever means this type of altered coffee bean is produced, the coffee is regularly considered some of the finest tasting on the market. It is prized for its reduced acidity, smooth flavor with rich, cocoa notes, and full bodied character.
While we may one day move away from treating coffee beans with a good pre-digestion and toward a less natural, more laboratory-based process, the trend of animal harvested and processed coffee beans is likely to continue. The process highlights the tastes and experiences that define good coffee, so coffee producers around the world are likely to look a bit closer at the droppings of the native inhabitants of their coffee farms.