Four most expensive coffee beans

  • coffee beans

As the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world, caffeine in its most ubiquitous form is coffee and is drunk so often and universally that it drives a billion-dollar economy. Apart from being the second most valuable commodity exported by developing countries, these beans support a global coffee culture ranging from the omnipresent Starbucks to hipster hole-in-the-wall cafes. In fact, so successful has the perk-me-up been that Ralph Lauren started selling its own brand and blend of coffee. Created in collaboration with La Colombe using beans from Central and South America, the coffee can be enjoyed in the brand’s Manhattan flagship store, along with other paraphernalia.

Be it a morning ritual, social lubricator, or after-meat digestif, some beans are just more equal than others. These exotic and rare varietals are guaranteed to satisfy even the most fastidious connoisseur. We track down the four most expensive coffee beans to date.

1. Kopi Luwak

The origins of Kopi Luwak, or Civet Cat coffee is not for the squeamish but makes for a compelling story — a Sumatran jungle cat selects only the finest, ripest coffee cherry berries to eat, and due to its inability to digest the beans, the beans are mixed with enzymes, creating an abundance of amino acids in the process. Once the beans have been defecated, farmers collect and roast them, ensuring a unique blend of coffee that’s milder, more fragrant, and coated with a musky smoothness.

When its popularity soared in the 1990s, battery farms cultivating what was essentially a free range process mushroomed and this compromised not only animal rights and also the quality of the coffee. However, in 2013, Matthew Ross founded Sijahtra, a company that prides itself on producing an ethical cup of kopi luwak. Said to be carried in Harrods for £2,000 per kilo (S$350 per 100g), you can now be at ease as you sip on the precious black golden liquid, that’s if, it has yet to be sold out.

Sijahtra

2. Hacienda La Esmeralda

Sold only at an annual private auction, the coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama does not boast gimmicky enticements, instead the Peterson family who now owns the plantation relies on their intimate knowledge of the land and high altitudes of the Boquete region to produce a consistently award winning product. In 2004, the Petersons rediscovered an ancient heirloom varietal, which they named Geisha and were so taken by its unique floral and citrus aromatics that they propagated it with great success. Fast forward to 2013, the Esmeralda Geisha Special Natural smashes world records at US$350 per pound (S$105 per 100g) and is described by the New York Times as “the finest coffee available" and “part of the culinary canon".

Hacienda Esmeralda

3. Finca El Injerto

On the foothills of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes lies Huehuetenango, a region in western Guatemala renowned for growing the best coffee. Its most celebrated estate is none other than, Finca El Injerto. Acquired by Jesus Aguirre Panama in 1874, the business has been kept within the family since, with the third generation leading the reins. The family grows a rare heritage variety originally from Yemen called Mocca, one of the world’s smallest coffee beans (about one-third the size of a typical bean) that packs a big flavour profile. A winner at the Guatemala Cup Of Excellence several times over, El Injerto has garnered a cult following for its bold and boozy nuances and sold for a record US$500.50 a pound (S$150 per 100g) in 2012, one of the highest prices ever paid for coffee.

Finca El Injerto

4. Black Ivory Coffee

Currently only ‘produced’ in Chiang Saen, Northern Thailand, the process of Black Ivory Coffee is somewhat similar to Kopi Luwak, relying on elephant stomachs to ferment Thai Arabica coffee beans. The difference is that unlike the civets, the elephants’ diet is 100 per cent herbivorous, thus creating a smoother-tasting blend, one’s that’s laced with a floral and chocolate aroma, creating a cross between coffee and tea.

The bean-gathering process is equally labour intensive though, that output is restricted. Black Ivory Coffee forecasts that it will only produce 150 kg this year, a negligible amount compared to the 8.6 billion kg of coffee produced in the world each year, according to the International Coffee Organisation. Due to this small output and specificity in brewing, this precious liquid is only available in selected five star hotels, although their website also offers a sample pack at USD73 for 35 grams (S$281 per 100g).

Black Ivory Coffee

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Published 30th August 2016
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