MNN Galleries

9 of the most unusual farms

By: Josh Lew on April 26, 2017, 8:21 a.m.
Elephants are used to process coffee in Northern Thailand.

Photo: Tanakorn Pussawong/Shutterstock

7 of 11

Dung coffee plantations

Some of the world’s most expensive coffee is harvested from elephant dung. Yes, this sounds strange, but it's not unheard of. Civet cats have been used to “process” coffee beans in Indonesia. The resulting “luwak” coffee was very popular a decade ago. However, allegations of force-feeding and theories that connected civets to the SARS outbreak slowed this fad. Black Ivory Coffee, in Thailand’s rural Surin Province, uses the same internal processing idea with elephants.

The elephants are not fed coffee beans directly. They eat a more-natural mixture of bananas, rice and coffee fruit. The beans go through a fermentation process in the pachyderms’ stomachs, and they are separated from the pulp that surrounds them. The elephants do not digest the beans. They are passed out with the dung. Well-paid workers have to pick out the beans, which are washed and roasted before being used to brew coffee. The fermentation process supposedly helps the coffee’s flavor and the small amount of production increases demand and, therefore, price.