This is a legitimate question, because civet farms in Indonesia are a real problem for animal welfare. In fact, Luwak kopi is a highly demanded product by curious tourists thirsting for discovery. Unfortunately, many of them do not know the effect of their taste on animals.
Usually, a civet will eat anything and indulge in a few coffee cherries on occasion. But due to the craze for this product, civet farms appeared around the tourist areas. The animals are then locked in small cages and fed almost exclusively on coffee beans. As you can imagine, this is close to the energy requirements of a civet!
Does this animal abuse apply to elephants in Thailand?
In fact, the sanctuary elephants are there precisely to be protected and treated well (they often ended up there precisely because they were mistreated where they lived before). Of course, I have never set foot there and cannot share their living conditions with you in great detail. However, it is well written on the Black Ivory website, that the animals are well treated and they are fed a balanced diet, just like they would in the wild.
Thus, coffee cherries are incorporated into their diet. We don’t stuff them with cherries. This also explains the effect of scarcity. In fact, elephants are not in the thousands and do not eat cherries all day! The production is clearly not huge and the quantities on sale are small!
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The manufacturing principle of this coffee is the same as that of Kopi Luwak coffee from Indonesia. Elephants, whose digestion is not 100% efficient, eat the coffee cherry (the fruit of the coffee tree in which there are two small coffee beans).
Some of these cherries are digested, but the rest is released directly into the animal’s droppings.
The rest is just coffee beans left almost intact. They have undergone some cellular transformations, but the appearance is the same as a coffee bean that has not travelled through the intestines of the mushroom.
Then it is enough to collect it directly from the face of the animal. For this, young people from the regions, often students, come to lend a helping hand. And yes, when elephant owners offer a much higher than average salary (200 baht per kilogram of coffee, or 10 times the coffee harvest on farms), it is natural that we should not turn down the task. It really has a positive impact on the lives of the locals.
Once the beans are harvested, they are cleaned before being roasted and shipped to the most luxurious hotels in the world. A small quantity is kept and offered for sale directly in order to allow the most curious among us to sample this very special coffee.
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