The Reason Black Ivory Coffee Costs About $1,000 Per Pound

Whether it's a cup of joe from the old percolator at home or a foamy latte grabbed at Starbucks on the morning rush to work, for some people, drinking coffee really is the only way to get out of bed in the morning. While it gives you that well-needed boost of energy, you may have some choice words about the price. But for all that grumbling, the price of your average coffee would pale in comparison to the price you'd pay for a single pound of Black Ivory Coffee — a cool $1,000.

Black Ivory Coffee is considered to be the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world (via NPR). It's said to have a sweet, chocolate-like taste compared to the usual bitter taste you may find in some other coffees. But for its high price, this luxury coffee actually goes through a bit of a disgusting "natural refinement process".

According to Black Ivory Coffee themselves, Thai Arabica coffee cherries are picked from high altitudes, and then sent to Surin, Thailand. There, the cherries are combined with certain other foods such as bananas or rice and then fed to elephants. 12 to 72 hours later, the elephant defecates. It is from this waste that the coffee beans are handpicked and then washed and dried by final-year high school students, before being sorted by both machine and hand to be roasted, packed, and shipped out. 

Why is Black Ivory Coffee so expensive?

Now, after reading how these coffee beans are refined, you're probably wondering: "Why would I pay one grand for a pound of coffee that an elephant defecated out?"

It seems that, despite this unsavory harvesting tactic, the price of the coffee is actually based on the productivity of the elephants. According to Luxe Adventure Traveler, it takes about 33 kilograms, or 72 pounds, of raw coffee cherries to get just 1 kilogram, or 2 pounds, of coffee. This is because a majority of the beans are not useable following the elephant's "movement". 

Why not just switch to a more conventional form of coffee refining? While a switch to "modern" refinement methods would no doubt prevent so many coffee beans from being lost, the "elephant process" is actually the key to making the coffee have such a unique flavor. According to Atlas Obscura, the fermentation that occurs in the elephant's digestive system helps to bring out the coffee bean's natural sweetness. 

A similar process occurs when preparing Kopi Luwak-styled coffee, or civet coffee. A civet, an animal similar to a cat, eats the coffee cherries, and their digestive tract "washes" the beans before they defecate them out (via Coffee Affection). While Kopi Luwak coffee is controversial due to cruel practices against civets, Black Ivory assures coffee drinkers that proceeds go towards assisting elephants in the wild and human-elephant families.