How much do you want to spend for your daily cup of coffee? As one of the oldest luxury goods still being consumed by most everyone on the planet, the price of coffee can be as exclusive as you want it to be.
Coffee is one of the oldest luxury goods. Photo: McKay Savage
A popular method of conspicuous consumption, the extremely wealthy are always on the lookout for a barrier of entry high enough to show how much better they are than everyone else! Luckily, modern advances in cultivation, collection and roasting mean a really good cup of coffee is actually in anybody’s reach.
What does it take to be the most expensive coffee in the world? A combination of strange circumstance, a really interesting story, and intensive labor requirements. And don't think most expensive necessarily means best, because there’s a few reasons you might want to steer clear of this particular cup.
Kopi Luwak: $75 Per Cup for Something the Cat Dragged In
One of the highest priced cups of coffee you can find in the world today involves a unassuming omnivorous mammal native to Indonesia known as the civet cat.
When the Dutch originally opened colonial Indonesia to coffee production back in the 18th century, multiple species of these civet cats soon modified their natural foraging behavior to sneak onto these plantations to feed on the ripe coffee berries. Digesting only the pulp, the coffee bean passed through the civet cat's digestive system relatively intact.
It was only a matter of time before a brave native inhabitant tried to roast, grind and brew those expelled beans.
The result was a surprisingly smooth coffee.
Soon "Kopi Luwak," aka "Cat Coffee," became a distinct regional phenomenon around Indonesia and other parts of southeast Asia. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that the popularity of the beverage traveled westward, eventually to Europe and even the United States.
Today, Kopi Luwak can be found at only the most expensive coffee establishments, and the taste is all the rage among the most daring and affluent coffee drinkers. A single cup of Kopi Luwak can run upwards of $75. The beans are in high demand, and they are very difficult to collect in sufficient quantities thanks to civet cats not always cooperating.
And that's how you get the most expensive coffee in the world!
You may have also seen "Black Ivory" Coffee, which is almost the same process only with elephants instead of civet cats. Rather than a traditional preparation, Black Ivory Coffee is a modern development with the purpose of supporting rescue elephant populations in Indonesia. It's also very expensive, thanks to the habit of elephants of chewing many of the the beans into oblivion.
While the well-off might be clamboring for these special treats, among seasoned coffee drinkers it’s a well-known fact there’s not much different about the taste of Kopi Luwak you can’t get anywhere else. The flavor is described as smooth, with a distinct reduction in bitterness. But the flavor profile itself is also diminished, as many of the more complex chemicals present in normal coffee are destroyed or altered by the enzyme-soaked digestive journey.
Exclusive Single-Source Coffee Locations
If you choose to stay out of other animal’s digestive systems, the exclusivity of coffee suddenly drops quite a bit. Today, one of the most exclusive coffee sources are Jamaica Blue Mountain Beans. A pound of beans might run you as high as $50, but far from the $200 to $600 price tag the civet cats are charging.
The big problem is this: coffee drinkers can’t seem to decide what the best coffee really is!
Depending on who you ask, the best coffee could come from Columbia, from the Antigua region of Guatemala, the Sidamo Province of Ethiopia and other places around the globe.
Much like wine, the flavor profile of good coffee is intensely complex and incredibly diverse.
Arabica coffee beans are some of the most prized, and they can be grown easily in many regions. And wherever it grows, the taste is slightly different but not necessarily better or worse.
Gourmesso Offers Coffee From All Over the World
So, for good or bad, the search for the most expensive coffee can lead down many paths. And as any mature coffee drinker knows, the act of discovery is one of the most enjoyable parts of expanding your coffee horizons!
That's why Gourmesso carries a variety of different types of coffee instead of just one. Some of them are single source, like the Tarrazu (from one of the most prized coffee regions of Costa Rica). While others contain coffee from multiple sources like our Etiopia Blend.
No matter what you pick, you certainly won't find the most expensive coffee in the world. But you'll find something immeasurably delicious!