Coffee is the second commodity after oil in the list of the most traded ones. Many producers offer enticing coffee choices far beyond what we used to consider the best. Some of them may put a serious dent in one’s budget, taking into account that 1-kilo price can soar to more than several thousand dollars. In the article, we have chosen the world’s most expensive coffee with the price reaching more than $1,000 per kilo (and it is not only kopi luwak, unlike what some of you may think). So fasten your belts, as we begin our journey to find out what is the most expensive coffee in the world.
Most Expensive Coffee Beans
Geisha Collection of the Hacienda La Esmeralda Brand
One of the priciest coffee brands belongs to the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm growing their Geisha coffee collection 1.5 thousand meters above sea level.
This coffee was discovered in Ethiopia near Geisha Mountain which afterward gave its name to the coffee beans. It is not clear when the coffee beans were planted there the first time, but in the early 1900s a man collected around 5 kg of the Geisha beans, traveled up to Panama and sold them to the Hacienda La Esmeralda from the Boquete region.
It is important to mention that nothing remarkable except for their resistance to “Ojo de Gallo” (leaf spot disease) was said about Geisha beans during the trade. It worth to note that disease resistance was probably the only reason for purchase.
When farm belonged to the Hacienda La Esmeralda was largely devastated by the leaf spot disease, Geisha trees remained almost untouched, so it was decided to plant them more, including Jaramillo land which is 1.5 thousand meters above sea level. This was the first time when beans of Geisha coffee had been planted that high, which soon brought great fame to the Hacienda La Esmeralda and contributed to becoming one of the most-awarded coffee brands in the world.
In 2004 at a coffee cupping competition in Panama Geisha coffee became the winner and eclipsed its nearest competitors. Cuppers were shocked when they tried Geisha coffee for the first time, as it was clear that something new had been discovered — unparalleled flavor with citrus notes and multi-layer aromatics. That year Geisha coffee set a record, as it was sold under the highest price in Panama’s auction history.
Finca El Injerto Brand
El Injerto is a family-owned farm located in Guatemala in the Highlands of Huehuetenango where coffee plantations reach the height from 1.5 up to 2 thousand meters above sea level and where the most exclusive coffee sorts are grown.
This region is considered one of the best for planting specialty coffee, taking into account it’s climate and soil properties — non-volcanic soil rich in minerals; sufficient amount of precipitation; warm temperature that remains around 22ºC throughout the year.
El Injerto guarantees the quality of their coffee because the farm is arranged in a full cycle of coffee production involving planting, washing, drying, milling, and roasting. El Injerto farm is the only coffee producer that has been ranked first 8 times (not to mention 13 times in finals) at the Cup of Excellence which is possibly the most respected competition of coffee beans from various coffee producers worldwide.
Expensive Coffee From The Cat Poop (or Not Only The Cat?)
There is no list of the most expensive coffee beans in the world where kopi luwak would not be mentioned. It originated from Indonesia and is considered one of the most controversial coffees bought for its novelty rather than taste. The way of production implies that coffee beans undergo enzymatic fermentation in the animal’s intestine. To cut short, kopi luwak is obtained from coffee cherries eaten by an animal known as a palm civet cat (in Indonesia they are called luwaks).
Civets eat cherries choosing only the sweetest and ripest ones and then excrete them in unchanged form. People collect animals’ waste, wash and separate undigested coffee beans, which are washed again and finally roasted.
It is believed that enzymes in civets intestine alter the coffee taste in a better way reducing bitterness. Besides, coffee gains fruit and grass flavor, which are often eaten by civets along with coffee cherries.
Because of fraudulent production and marketing, one hardly can distinguish genuine and fake kopi luwak. The most valuable and thus the most expensive coffee beans are those which are obtained from wild animals, but there is a huge difference between the world “wild” in the pack and actual wild animal.
Civets are caged and kept under cruel conditions deprived of space and movement, forced to eat only coffee cherries all day long. This raises questions related to animal welfare and human cruelty, which one who drinks kopi luwak should be aware of.
Kopi Luwak is sold under $300 per cup in Indonesia, and its price can reach up to $3,000 per kilo provided that the coffee is obtained from wild civets. The popularity of kopi luwak (especially among Asian customers) brought new coffee to the market — coffee obtained from monkeys, birds, and… elephants (yes, you read it right!)
Black Ivory Coffee
The production process of the elephant’s coffee may resemble the one of kopi luwak. Elephants consume coffee cherries with beans inside, which are then processed by enzymes in the elephants’ intestine and excreted unchanged.
The most remarkable feature of the coffee beans obtained from the elephant is that, unlike conventional coffee, there is almost no bitterness in its taste. The elephant diet also contributes to the coffee taste, as it brings notes of fruits and grass with smoky and a bit earthy undertones.
Only one company in the world, located in Thailand, produces coffee from elephants’ waste. Unlike kopi luwak, there is no animal cruelty issue around black ivory coffee. Instead, the company works with the Asian Elephant Foundation and contributes to elephant welfare, not to mention their contribution to fighting unemployment and poverty in nearby villages.
There are no other coffee brands that are produced in so minute amounts as the black ivory. The total amount of coffee produced in 2019 was only 150 kg, proving this brand to be the rarest and one of the priciest coffees in the world. The rarity is easy to explain.
First of all, only one company in the world produces black ivory being a monopolist on the market. Secondly, to obtain 1 kilo of coffee beans, 33 kg of coffee berries should be fed to an elephant. Besides, the production process implies high-cost manual labor, not to mention the difficulties of housing an elephant.
Up to now the most expensive cup of coffee one can afford is a cup of black ivory coffee. On the other hand, connoisseurs do not agree on whether kopi luwak or elephants’ black ivory and other similar coffees obtained from animals should be put into the same line with classic coffee like the Hacienda La Esmeralda or Finca El Injerto. In spite of this, all those four coffee brands remain the priciest in the world and definitely worth trying.