In the lush hills of northern Thailand, a herd of 20 elephants is excreting some of the world's most expensive coffee. Trumpeted as earthy in flavor and smooth on the palate, the exotic new brew is made from beans eaten by Thai elephants and plucked a day later from their dung. A gut reaction inside the elephant creates what its founder calls the coffee's unique taste. Stomach turning or oddly alluring, Black Ivory Coffee is not just one of the world's most unusual specialty coffees: At $500 per pound, it's also among the world's priciest.
"When an elephant eats coffee, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in bitterness," says Blake Dinkin, who developed the coffee. "You end up with a cup that's very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee." The result is similar in civet coffee, or kopi luwak, another exorbitantly expensive variety extracted from the excrement of the weasel-like civet. But the elephants' massive stomach provides a bonus, thanks to the length of time it takes the beans to be digested and the other ingredients that infuse the beans during that time. For now, the $50-per-serving drink is only available at luxury hotels in Thailand, the Maldives, and Abu Dhabi.