Very spe­cial blend

Black Ivory Cof­fee served up by ele­phants

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - SARAH DOKTOR

What does the world’s rarest, most ex­pen­sive cof­fee taste like?

I wasn’t sure what to ex­pect when I was re­cently of­fered the chance to taste a cup of Black Ivory Cof­fee at the Ritz-Carl­ton Toronto.

I was even more per­plexed when I was told the beans were re­fined nat­u­rally by Thai ele­phants, but more on that later.

Hav­ing a cup of Black Ivory Cof­fee isn’t as sim­ple as dump­ing some grinds into a drip brewer at home.

Every as­pect of the brew­ing and tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has been care­fully thought out and tested by founder and Toronto-na­tive Blake Dinkin.

The tast­ing is meant to be an ex­pe­ri­ence, sim­i­lar to a high tea or a wine tast­ing.

Some­thing to be en­joyed with oth­ers.

This isn’t some­thing you grab to go.

To start your tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the beans are ground at your table us­ing a spe­cial hand grinder.

The cof­fee is then brewed us­ing a con­trap­tion that looks like it be­longs in a Harry Pot­ter movie, not a five-star ho­tel.

The French siphon de­sign dates back to the 1840s.

The wa­ter is heated us­ing a flame to a spe­cific tem­per­a­ture: 93 C.

As the cof­fee brews, it tips from one side of the de­vice, back to the other and the smell of choco­late-y cof­fee fills the air.

It takes about four min­utes for the cof­fee to brew. Af­ter its poured, they sug­gest let­ting the cof­fee cool down be­fore drink­ing it. If the glass is too hot to hold, it’s too hot to drink.

Black Ivory is served in glass­ware sim­i­lar to brandy snifter, which al­lows the taster to fully en­joy the cof­fee’s aroma. While the smell is bold, the taste is quite del­i­cate.

Like wine, every­one picks up dif­fer­ent notes. I found it tasted smooth like choco­late with hints of cherry and a bit earthy. It’s not bit­ter. In fact, it is very light, more tea-like, and doesn’t stick to your teeth or give you “cof­fee breath.”

It’s a far cry from the McDon­ald’s cof­fee I usu­ally sip on at my desk.

What makes Black Ivory Cof­fee so spe­cial?

As men­tioned, it’s nat­u­rally re­fined through ele­phants. Yep, ele­phants. The Thai Ara­bica cof­fee cher­ries are hand­picked and fed to ele­phants, mixed into their favourite foods in a small vil­lage called Ban Ta Klang. Black

Ivory

em­ploys 30 ele­phants, cared for by lo­cal fam­i­lies.

Each ele­phant has their own tastes. Some like their cher­ries with rice, oth­ers pre­fer tamarind.

The cher­ries are in­gested, di­gested and defe­cated by the ele­phants. The lo­cal care­givers than sift through the dung, hand-pick­ing the whole cher­ries to wash, dry and roast. Why ele­phants?

Ele­phants are her­bi­vores who nat­u­rally use fer­men­ta­tion to break down the greens they eat. The fer­men­ta­tion al­lows the ab­sorp­tion of the sweet pulp and cof­fee cherry skins into the beans. The other food the ele­phants eat also af­fect the taste of the cof­fee.

It takes about 33 ki­los of cof­fee cher­ries to pro­duce a kilo of Black Ivory Cof­fee. Only 150 ki­los of Black Ivory Cof­fee beans are pro­duced each year, so ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a tast­ing is quite ex­clu­sive.

A tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence costs $50 and serves two or three peo­ple.

GETTY IM­AGES

Blake Dinkin, founder of Black Ivory Cof­fee, walks with an ele­phant at the lux­ury Anan­tara re­sort in the north­ern Thai town of Chi­ang Saen in April 2015.

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