Oct 26, 2012

A very special coffee from Elephant Dung or just a very big PR show?

Where is the coffee bean on this picture?

It went around the world in the last days: "Would you pay US$50 for a cup of elephant dung coffee?", cnngo.com asked and continued: "The big story these days is coffee made with beans that have been pooped out by elephants". Thai elephants produce the most expensive coffee worldwide. Hotels of the Anantara Group serve this coffee. And newspapers around the world have published this message eagerly.
Is this a story that can be trusted? Is it good for elephants, when you drink elephant dung coffee? Do elephants normally eat coffee beans and poop them out afterwards? Of course there is a homepage, that tries to tell you this: blackivorycoffee.com. You learn: "Coffee beans are naturally refined by Thai elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Chiang Saen, northern Thailand." Naturally? Do elephants normally eat coffee beans? Try a Google Archive Search about elephants and coffee beans for example for the year 2010 - and you will find nothing. Therefore also blackivorycoffee.com tells you, that "in times of drought", Asian elephants are attracted to coffee plantations "as many of them are irrigated". Then they eat, what they find here - but not normally, when there are not times of drought.
So how do the elephants at the Golden Elehant Triangle Foundation get their beans? You guess it: They are fed with beans. Before the best Thai Arabica beans have been picked from an altitude as high as 1500 meters. So: What is promoted as a natural process really is a man made process.
Does this harm the Elephants? The Black Ivory Coffee Company assures: "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 production site full-time." So you learn: The Elephant camp is a "production site".
And who earns the money from this production? "8% of our sales will help fund a specialist elephant veterinarian to provide free care to all the elephants of Thailand through the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. Additional funds will also be used to purchase medicine as well as to build a new laboratory", says the homepage of blackivorycoffee.com.
And who founded this business with elephants? It is Blake Dinkin. Before he was active in northern Thailand, he was active in Rwanda in Africa, as you can learn on The business of doing good. Dinkin, a Torontonian, has completed his MBA at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). He then went to Africa through a Canadian non-profit group called MBAs Without Borders (MWB).
And Blake Dinkin is also on Facebook. He writes there about the article Elephant Dung Coffee: World's Most Expensive Brew Is Made With Pooped-Out Beans on huffingtonpost.com. He says: "It's amazing how one article can lead to coverage in so many other sites. I have just received an invite to a fantastic PR opportunity." Well, this is it: A big PR show.