In the last few years, coffee has gone from being a common beverage to a trend. Coffee shops are popping up all over the place, and supermarket shelves are overflowing with coffee from different producers. But there are some coffees that are hard to find. They are not in high demand because of their high cost and non-standard taste, but they are highly appreciated by coffee gourmets who are not ready to settle for a mass product.
In this article we will tell you in detail about the characteristics of the most expensive coffees in the world.
This type of coffee is produced in Thailand and is considered the most expensive in the world: the cost of 1 kg of beans reaches up to $3,000. The price is explained by a non-standard method of production – for it coffee berries are collected, previously passed through the digestive tract of elephants. The beans are digested together with fruit and sugar cane for 2 days, and then specialists working on the plantation look for intact beans in the excrement, which are carefully washed, dried and processed.
What is this for? The elephants’ gastric juices eat away at the protein in the beans, removing the bitterness that spoils the flavor of the drink. And when you brew even very strong Black Ivory coffee, it tastes surprisingly smooth and pleasant, with notes of elderberry, spices, tobacco, cinnamon, chocolate.
The production of this coffee is a long and laborious process. To get 1 kg of Black Ivory coffee, elephants have to eat 35-40 kg of fresh berries. That is why the production of Black Ivory is limited (about 1 ton per year), despite the high demand for the product all over the world.
By the way, you cannot buy this coffee in a regular store – it is only sold in Thailand and neighboring countries, as well as in five-star hotels in the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates. And 8% of the proceeds from coffee sales go to the Asian Elephant Fund, where they are spent on medicines and veterinary care.
This coffee is produced in Indonesia, particularly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi and East Timor. Kopi Luwak costs from $500 for 1 kg. This price is justified by the unsurpassed taste and aroma of the finished drink. It has hints of chocolate, hazelnut, spices and caramel. The aftertaste is long and pleasant, with a slight acidity and bitterness.
Kopi Luwak grows at an altitude of more than 1500 metres above sea level. The higher it is, the brighter the flavour and aroma, and the better the wine, floral and fruity notes. And why? Because of the lower temperature and less oxygen, the coffee trees grow more slowly, the berries take longer to ripen and have more time to develop a dense and rich flavour.
However, the high cost of the product is not only due to the low volume of production, but also to the non-standard way of producing coffee. If you look at the advertising for this product or its packaging, you will notice the image of civets (predatory mammals). These animals play an important role in the production of Kopi Luwak coffee.
Kopi Luwak has its own history. In the early 19th century, the Dutch consolidated their control over the Indonesian islands. Later, they realised that the coffee harvested in the area had great value in Europe. At the time, the Dutch tried to increase the quantity for export and forbade the locals from picking the berries themselves.
Resourceful Indonesians began collecting the droppings of the civets that ate the coffee berries. They then washed the intact beans and brewed coffee from them. When the Dutch heard about this and tasted such a drink, they appreciated it.
Why did beans from civet droppings become an exclusive and expensive product? The fact is that the animals have a highly sensitive sense of smell, and they choose only ripe berries. During digestion, the beans naturally ferment. One of the enzymes – cebitin – breaks down the proteins in the beans, allowing them to release more of their aroma and take on new nuances of flavour.
To make Kopi Luwak, only undigested beans are harvested. They are carefully washed, dried and roasted. The finest coffee is made from the droppings of wild animals, not those kept in cages on special farms where they are force-fed coffee berries and restricted in their diet, which affects the taste of the coffee.
Saint Helena coffee is grown on the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, 1800 kilometers from Africa. The island is famous for being the place where the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte spent his last days in prison. He was a great lover of coffee and is said to have said: «The only beautiful thing on Saint Helena is the coffee».
But Saint Helena does not cost $175-200 per 1kg. The island is remote from the mainland, transporting the raw material takes a lot of time and effort, so it is expensive. There is also a shortage of labor, and the process of processing the beans has its own difficulties – the beans are very delicate, easily damaged during picking, processing and roasting.
The advantage of Saint Helena coffee is that the plantations are located in an ecologically clean place at an altitude of 720 meters above sea level. There is still no major industry, and cars and roads did not arrive until the 1970s.
Coffee was brought here from Yemen in 1733, the «Green Bourbon» Arabica mono variety, which requires special delicacy in picking. Only seabird droppings are used as fertilizer. After hand picking, the berries are washed with local spring water and dried naturally for 4 months – enough time for the beans to absorb all the sweetness of the pulp.
The finished Saint Helena coffee has a fruity acidity with notes of cherry, white wine and passion fruit. It has a chocolate and caramel aftertaste.
Hacienda La Esmeralda has been produced in Panama by the Peterson family since 1967. It is grown on the slopes of Mount Baru on mineral-rich volcanic soil.
The influence of the two oceans and the climate produce a coffee that is exquisite and unique. You can recognize notes of bergamot, jasmine and citrus in the drink. It is appreciated by critics all over the world: Hacienda La Esmeralda has won many awards, such as the Panama Cup in 2017 and 2019. The cost of this coffee averages $800 for 1 kg of beans.
In order to obtain a top quality coffee, every detail must be taken into account, from the planting to the processing of the beans. This variety is always harvested by hand and the maturity of the coffee berries is strictly monitored. They are then re-sorted, washed, dried and roasted.
The average market price is $1,000 for 1 kg of beans. It has a recognizable chocolate and nutty aftertaste. Grown on a single plantation in Guatemala, it is a fastidious variety with low yields but high quality and a unique flavor profile with rich fruit and berry tones. The workers harvest only juicy, small beans, which are processed using traditional methods.
The humid climate also contributes to the unconventional flavor, as the region is always rainy. The coffee trees are grown in the shade of other plants and the berries are picked by hand. The soil is fertilized and treated using environmentally friendly methods. This is how Finca El Injerto is born, with a harmonious balance between sweetness, acidity and bitterness. By the way, this variety has also won several awards – «Best Guatemalan Coffee» in 2021 and 2nd place at the CE in 2022.
Cultivated in Hawaii since 1984, on the island of Molokai in Maui County. There is only one plantation, located 850 meters above sea level in the village of Kualapuu. The fertile volcanic soil here is ideal for growing sweet potatoes (the village of Kualapuu is named after it – «Sweet Potato Hill») and, of course, Red Katuai coffee. It comes out mild, without bitterness, with chocolate notes in the flavor.
The coffee farm is small, so all of the staff’s attention is paid to the quality of the raw material – always clean, whole, no moldy or fermented beans, despite the fact that the ripe berries are picked by machine, not by hand. This is what Molokai has established worldwide, which is why you can find various imitations and blends on store shelves, which should not be confused with the original version.
On the farm itself, Molokai comes in two varieties: wet and dry. The latter is more intense, with a slight acidity and herbal notes. The cost for 1 kg of grain is $100.
This coffee is known not only for its flavor, but also for its history. It is grown in Brazil in the foothills of the Matikera Mountains on the Carmo de Minas estate. Fazenda Santa Ines has been produced by members of the Pereira family for over 100 years. Today, 1 kg of beans costs about $110.
Fans of this variety appreciate the coffee for its multifaceted flavor: sweet, slightly acidic, with hints of lemon, clove, green apple and chamomile. All of these notes unfold gradually in the mouth, leading to a long, creamy aftertaste. The texture of the drink itself is delicate and smooth, with a dense, enveloping body. The flavor is rich and bitter.
The technique of obtaining a quality harvest is kept secret. It is only known that it is the «Yellow Bourbon» variety and that the height of the coffee trees is 1100 meters above sea level. The berries are picked by hand with soft cloths to minimize the risk of spoiling the raw material. After sorting, the berries are completely dried with the skin on so that the beans retain the fruity flavor and aroma of the pulp. For further processing, an innovative technique is used that is kept secret.
This is not just a variety, but a full-fledged coffee brand created by the Ospina brothers. They founded a plantation in Colombia in the 30s of the 19th century and began to grow Typica Arabica in an ecologically clean area in the shade of tropical trees. Ospina is now in its fifth generation of production for coffee lovers and costs $300 per 1 kg.
Despite the increased demand, production is limited – only 45 kg of beans per year. This is due to the fact that the plant only bears fruit in the 3rd to 5th year of its growth, as well as the specific processing technology. The harvest is done manually. After sorting, the beans are stored in oak barrels for 6 months, then dried and fermented.
Ospina is characterized by a predominantly berry taste (blueberry and bilberry notes are present), there are also notes of orange, peach and nuts. The aftertaste is clean and persistent.
The price for 1 kg of coffee beans of this variety starts from $250. The variety got its name for a reason: coffee grows in Jamaica on the slopes of the Blue Mountain, which rises 1200 meters above sea level.
The mountain massif is not characterized by a large area (only 6000 hectares), so the volume of production is small. The growing conditions have their own influence on the flavor of the drink. Due to the clean mountain air, fertile soil and regular rainfall, we get a bright and balanced flavor with notes of prune, dark chocolate, pear and walnut.
The finished drink has medium density and low acidity, and has a balanced combination of acidity and sweetness, aroma and flavor. The grains are transported to the mainland in wooden barrels where they retain their freshness and rich flavor profile.
Please note that there may be grains on the market labeled as Jamaican Blue Mountain, but grown in a different area. It should also not be confused with the blend of the same name – such coffee is much cheaper and not exclusive.
The coffee is grown in El Salvador, in Chalatenango, on a plantation located at 1600-1700 meters above sea level. Los Planes Pacamara is produced by a single family. The cost of 1 kg of grain is quite expensive – $89. This is due to the fact that the raw material is collected in small quantities and the beans do not withstand dark roasting, so the processing is done by real professionals, for whom the quality of the product is a priority.
In the finished drink you can feel shades of cocoa, tangerine, caramel, vanilla, red apple. The flavor is long lasting, refreshing, powerful and aristocratic.
This coffee will appeal to you if you prefer a rich, invigorating drink without bitterness. It reveals notes of dark grapes, spices and nuts, and also pleases with a delicate consistency of coffee emulsion.
Grown on plantations in Honduras, the influence of the local climate and soil on the depth of the coffee’s character is due to the strict observance of the technology of growing, harvesting and processing the coffee beans, as well as the careful selection of only whole berries. If you decide to try Mi Esperanza, be prepared to pay $77 for 1 kg of coffee.
Grown in Hawaii on the slopes of Hualalalai and Mauna Lo, where the coffee plantations are located. The soil is fertile and the climate is ideal for growing rare Arabica varieties. All of these factors contribute to the fact that the coffee berries ripen slowly, giving them time to develop an exceptional flavor. Freshly brewed coffee has hints of cinnamon, walnut, and even freshly baked goods.
Production of Kona coffee is limited. The berries are harvested by hand from August to January. The beans are separated from the pulp and then fermented for several hours in a special tank. In order to produce a high quality product, the entire production technology of this variety must be strictly followed and controlled.