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The Biggest Elephant Story in the Hill Country

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Contrary to what you may have heard, there will be no classes in Comfort offering yoga on top of elephants. That would be an ongoing joke between The Elephant Story and the yoga studio in the small Hill Country town. If you do, however, dream of practicing yoga atop one of those great mammals, travel to the Surin Elephant Village in Thailand is a must.

The Biggest Elephant Story in the Hill Country

Photo: pexels.com

As Mr. Story, owner of The Elephant Story, says “Better they (the elephants) all remain in their natural home.” But if you have a passion for Asian elephant conservation and for providing a fair wage for workers in Asia, that you can find in Comfort, right along High Street in the Historic Downtown District. It is there you will find the The Elephant Story, a not-for-profit business dedicated to elephant conservation.

Featured in articles and news stories worldwide, The Elephant Story is the business idea of Mr. Ed Story. In 2012, he had the idea of opening a not-for-profit business that would send net profits back to Asia to aid in elephant conservation, particularly for those living in Thailand.

The Biggest Elephant Story in the Hill Country

Photo: urbanhomemagazine.com

Opening first in what used to be the old pool hall, then later expanding into the adjacent building that was once the saloon, The Elephant Story is housed in the buildings that were restored by Mr. Story’s wife, Joey, and friend, Bobby Dent. It is here that their passion for conservation became a reality. Primarily selling merchandise that is hand-crafted in Southeast Asia, The Elephant Story not only funds elephant conservation efforts, but provides an income to those who create the products.

The Biggest Elephant Story in the Hill Country

Photo: the-elephant-story.com

While living and doing business in Asia, Mr. Story and his wife became interested in the elephant conservation efforts of Thailand and they also discovered their second passion: elephant polo. Participating in the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament for the first time some eight years ago, the family tradition began and has continued ever since.

In 2014, they took a different turn and sponsored the first ever polo match in the elephant village (Moo Baan Chang) in Ban Ta Klang, Surin Province, Thailand. Residents of this village include 200 elephants, their owners, known as mahouts and the mahout families. The polo tournament sponsored in the village by The Elephant Story raised funds that remained in the village. Funds that have improved and continue to improve the lives of all who live there, while bringing awareness to conservation efforts.

Should you travel to the small town of Comfort to shop at The Elephant Story, you’ll find textiles woven in Laos and Cambodia, hand woven fabric, greeting cards, jewelry and elephant plush toys crafted in Thailand, among other things. Also available for purchase is coffee and tea grown in northern Thailand and if you too have hopes of one day playing a match of elephant polo, they have that covered also.

The Biggest Elephant Story in the Hill Country

Photo: npr.org (Michael Sullivan/NPR)

But perhaps the most unique product you will find at The Elephant Story is Black Ivory Coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world and a bean that made GQ‘s UK Billionaire Gift Guide in 2015. So what exactly gives this bean such distinction? It’s the processing of the beans.

Earning such names as “brew number 2,” “crappuccino” and “elephant poo coffee,” the Arabica coffee beans are processed in a very non-traditional manner. The coffee cherries are grown in northern Thailand, picked by the mahouts, mixed with rice, pineapple and sugar cane and then fed to the elephants. After some 24 to 72 hours of waiting, the beans make their way through the digestive tract of a pachyderm that lives at The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.

Once the beans have been “deposited,” the mahouts gather the beans and clean and sun dry them to ready them for roasting. According to the Black Ivory Coffee website, the elephants are herbivores and have an enzyme that extracts the needed protein from the coffee bean through a fermentation process. Because of this process, the beans that emerge from the elephants’ backsides are said to have a milder and less bitter taste.

The Biggest Elephant Story in the Hill Country

Photo: omerohome.com

If your budget allows and the history of the bean doesn’t trouble you, for $50 The Elephant Story will provide an in-store service of the coffee that will serve four demitasse cups. If you would rather prepare your own, you may also purchase a packet of the beans for $40 either in the store or over the phone.

At this time, the beans are sold only in 5 Star hotels in Asia and in The Elephant Story in Comfort, the only location to purchase the coffee in the Western Hemisphere. However, if you prefer more traditionally prepared coffee beans, those you can find also in-store or online.

Finally, if your heart is set on a drink that has been fermented in a vat rather than inside an elephant, The Elephant Story also sells their own Hill Country wine for $20 a glass.

So whether you are shopping for the billionaire in your life, or because you have a love for conservation, rest assured you are improving the lives of those some nine thousand miles away.

References:

Telephone interview with Mr. Ed Story, owner of The Elephant Story

www.blackivorycoffee.com

www.the-elephant-story.com

www.npr.org

www.facebook.com/BlackIvoryCoffee

www.facebook.com/TheElephantStory