Coffee is big business and appeals to a sophisticated crowd of dedicated drinkers. Coffee producers are in constant competition to develop the best coffee in the world, which leads to innovative new growing and harvesting methods – and higher prices.
However, it also leads to imitators. Brands that are famous for their quality are often imitated or even counterfeited by people trying to cash in on the uneducated coffee buyer. Here’s where you can go to make sure you get the world’s best, and most expensive, coffee.
Often labeled the most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak is also famous, or perhaps notorious, for its unique production methods.
Processing Kopi Luwak starts with a coffee cherry, which is then eaten, digested, and excreted by the palm civet, also known as a toddy cat. The coffee beans gain a unique flavor due to a fermentation process that occurs in the palm civet’s digestive tract, one that cannot be acquired though any other method.
The difficulty of processing, cleaning and distributing these coffee beans means that fewer than 5,000 pounds of genuine Kopi Luwak are produced each year. This leads to its high price tag, often over $500 per pound.
This South American nation is a major player in the coffee industry, and its best brands command premium prices.
One of the most expensive varieties of Colombian coffee is called Ospina Dynasty Premier Gran Cru. This coffee is made by the Ospinas, one of the most important family groups in Colombia, whose members include three Colombian presidents and the man whose image is featured on every can of Colombia House coffee. The Gran Cru can cost more than $150 per pound.
One of the rarest coffees in the world also comes from Colombia. Hacienda El Roble is produced on a small farm in the southern region of the country, and only about 50 pounds are produced every year. You will have to spend at least $100 to go home with a pound of this rare coffee.
Panama produces only a small amount of the world’s coffee, but it’s well known for the high-quality beans that can be grown in its temperate climate.
One of these, Elida Geisha 803, made headlines when 10 pounds of the world’s one-hundred-pound supply was purchased by a coffee company in the San Francisco area – and was then sold for $75 a cup. At $800 per pound, the roasters had to make their money back somehow!
Not all high-quality Panamanian coffee is quite this rare. Hacienda La Esmeralda, a variety grown on the slopes of Volcán Baru is a little easier to find and costs a little less. You can own a pound of this premium coffee for about $300.
While all the coffees on this list have a high sticker price, Black Ivory Coffee Company is at the top. This rare coffee from Thailand costs $1,500 for a pound, a result of another unique processing practice that, once again, involves live animals.
Black Ivory Coffee comes from coffee beans that have been harvested from elephant droppings. These beans have been enhanced due to the fermentation that occurs in the elephant’s stomach. This digestive process is much longer than the one that occurs with Kopi Luwak, resulting in a much more intense flavor.
The price is so much higher because the process of extracting the coffee beans is much more difficult. This coffee is made only on a specific elephant refuge, and unlike the palm civet, elephants tend to chew and crush the beans, meaning only a few make it through in a usable form.
So, the next time you hand over five dollars for a cup of coffee, remember – it can get even pricier!