We’ve all got our preferred vices. It always seems to be the case, too, that these vices are all the sweeter when they take a big chunk out of our paycheck. If fine coffee is your preferred way to treat yourself, consider this list of the world’s most expensive and hard-to-find coffees. Purchasing these rare caffeinated delicacies will put a serious dent in your budget for the month, and probably require hours of your time to source, but if you consider drinking your paycheck the best part of waking up, we guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth.
$100-plus per pound
This coffee is available only in the smallest annual supply — just 22 kg per year. Its origins are shrouded in mystery; the coffee trees were originally purchased by the owner in the belief that they were the prized Geisha varietal, only to discover they were something entirely unknown. Unsure of what they would produce, he named the trees for the farm lot where they were growing and the legend of HR61 was born. By the end of the season, though, he realized he had something special on his hands.
Grown on a farm in southern Colombia overseen by a full-time agronomist from trees nourished by organic chicken compost, the coffee is meticulously processed by pulping, sun-drying, and controlled fermentation. The only place way to procure it roasted is from a roaster in Melbourne, Australia, known as Proud Mary, which keeps a tight lid on all information about aroma, flavor, and body. One privileged taster reported notes of mango, peach, and cream, accented by a big, creamy body and belied by a delicate floral aroma.
$150-plus per pound
Founded in 1835 by a pair of brothers who escaped from prison, the Ospina farm grew to be the first big-scale commercial coffee growing operation. (It’s rumored that the iconic brand pitchman Juan Valdez — the guy in the hat with his burro on the side of a Colombia House coffee can — was the brainchild of a member of the Ospina family.) Eventually, the family collective that ran it came to include three Colombian presidents and their product became one of the most prized cups around the world. Grown exclusively at an altitude of 7,500 feet or higher in the ashy volcanic highlands of Colombia’s Antioquia province, the company’s Gran Cafe Premier Grand Cru offers a nutty aroma with hints of apricot, a velvety but balanced body, and a chocolate-almond flavor that somehow manages to finish crisp on the palate.
$100-$350 per pound
There’s more than one way to get coffee that tastes amazing and costs a fortune. Hacienda La Esmeralda, grown in Panama’s Boquete region, is possibly the most-awarded coffee in the world. Sourced only from heirloom coffee trees of the Geisha varietal, a tree that grows exclusively at 1500 meters above sea level, its high price point stems from minimal supply (which leads to rationing some years), a short growing season, and high labor cost, not to mention its unparalleled flavor. This coffee has a purebred lightness and intensity of flavor that is unmistakably citrusy, as strong as a lemon tea cookie.
$600 per pound
One of the world’s most famous (perhaps infamous) big-ticket coffees is Kopi Luwak, an Indonesian coffee that is roasted after being eaten, digested, and crapped out by a palm civet, which we prefer to call by its common name, the toddy cat. Apparently, these bright-eyed, tree-dwelling animals are particular about eating only the sweetest and freshest coffee cherries. Once ingested, the coffee cherries undergo the most natural fermentation process within the toddy cat’s digestive tract, yielding distinctive flavor characteristics that can’t be reproduced any other way. Once the civet has discarded the beans, they are cleaned (obviously), roasted, and brewed. Plum, tea, and rose are the most salient flavor notes.
It’s worth noting that the commercial production of Kopi Luwak is associated with inhumane treatment of the toddy cat. So factor that into your buying decision.
$1,500 per pound
The name sounds cool, even mysterious, until you find out that it refers to elephant droppings. (What is it about coffee processed through poop?) Produced through a process similar to Kopi Luwak, Black Ivory starts with Arabica coffee beans consumed by elephants in northern Thailand. As herbivores, elephants bring a particular enzyme and an extra slow digestion time to the process that produces a uniquely smooth, mellow taste in the finished product. In other words, not all poop coffee is made equal. (No comment.)
The extra exorbitant price of Black Ivory is due to the difficulty in extracting whole beans — the elephants have a habit of chewing most of them up, as well as depositing them in hard-to-find places. Unlike Kopi Luwak, the coffee is manufactured in cooperation with an elephant refuge, which rescues elephants from the abuses of the tourism industry, and a percentage of coffee sales go to fund the elephants’ healthcare. This is an outrageous spend you can feel good about.
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