Coffee profile: Thai Elephant Nature Park coffee

“The elephant can survive only if forests survive.” -Mark Shand

When you think of coffee, elephants may not be the first thing comes to mind but in a small corner of Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai province, elephants, conservation, and community share a powerful, inspiring bond. Founded with the intent to provide a safe, protected space for these beloved giants, Elephant Nature Park (ENT) has grown well beyond its original mission to become an international leader in animal welfare, reforestation, and community partnership.

The elephants

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Concerned with the welfare of working elephants — particularly those that are abused, neglected, or abandoned in old age — and rapid decline in Thailand’s Asian elephant population, Lek Chailert* opened Elephant Nature Park in the late 1990s as a refuge and rehabilitation sanctuary for abused and orphaned elephants. ENP has grown exponentially from its humble, volunteer-staffed beginnings. No longer content to save only the elephant, ENP is looking to preserve the ecosystem by providing a safe haven for numerous native animals, protecting Thailand’s old growth forests, and enabling indigenous communities to profit by working in accordance with their traditions and values. Partnering with local tribes surrounding ENP, Lek and the community are creatively fighting back against deforestation and cultural decline. In doing so, they are ensuring that their beloved elephants, wildlife, and people will always have a thriving natural home. To learn more about ENP or to meet their current herd, please visit their website:

Reforestation and community engagement

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ENP is located in the heart of Northern Thailand’s old growth forests. Of the land directly surrounding ENP, 90% is old growth forest and 10% is developing forest. Old growth forests provide a home for countless wildlife — from rare birds and plants to elephants. The forest also makes an ideal home for coffee plants. Unlike industrialized agriculture, coffee plants fit seamlessly into the natural environment. Low growing and non-invasive, coffee plants thrive when planted beneath the shade of old growth trees, often referred to as a canopy. ENP is helping to preserve these beautiful, vital forests by enabling the forest to be profitable by being left alone. As part of their conservation efforts, ENP supplies local tribes with their initial coffee plants, coffee education (including processing and farming training), and long-term management plans. A single coffee tree can produce for up to 70-years, making this a long-term conservation strategy. British conservationist Mark Shand once said, “The elephant can survive only if forests survive.” In the case of ENP, I think it is safe to say that the forests and traditions are surviving because of the elephant.

ENP coffee

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Our current ENP coffee is grown and processed by Karen Hill Tribe Farmers, neighbors of ENP in Khun Yuam District, northern Thailand. Grown 4,900 feet above sea level under a natural canopy of lychee and old growth trees, our ENP coffee is roasted to a rich full-city / Vienna shade to highlight the beans’ wonderfully smooth, dark chocolate sweetness, vibrant spice notes, and surprisingly clean, sweet citrus close. The Karen Hill Tribe Farmers, most of whom are women, receive an above-market rate for their beans and all profits from the ENP coffee sales go directly back to the park. To purchase ENP coffee, click here.

*”Lek has been honored as one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of Asia, Ford Foundation’s Hero of the Planet, and recognized by Hilary Clinton as a Hero of Global Conservation. Her accomplishments have been featured in documentaries produced by National Geographic, BBC, Animal Planet, and Discovery.”

-Source: Elephant Nature Park


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