The 12 Most Exquisite and Expensive Coffees in the World

Most people prefer to start their day with a cup of hot, aromatic coffee. This non-essential product has become a significant expense. The culture of grabbing coffee to go, inspired by American celebrities, further adds to the cost. Reasonable questions arise: why is coffee so expensive, and which are the most expensive varieties? Let’s delve into this with experts.

Coffee as a Commodity

Coffee is a commodity traded on the stock market, with Arabica setting the tone for trade. Its price has remained relatively low and stable. In 2014, a kilogram of Arabica was priced at $4.4, and in 2023, it maintained the same average price. However, history has seen price spikes, such as in 2022 when it rose to $5.63 per kilogram. Robusta is cheaper, trading at $2.4 per kilogram in 2024. Yet, some varieties command prices exponentially higher than the average market rates. The most expensive can fetch $600, $1000, or even $1500 per pound (about 450 grams). Why is this the case?

“The most expensive varieties are usually the rarest. This is similar to precious gemstones: the more unique the gem, the higher its price. These coffee varieties include Rume Sudan, Laurina, Wush Wush, Purpurascens, Maragogipe, Pacamara, Villa Sarchi, and others. They have vivid and distinguishable descriptors, meaning taste and aroma. Their balanced qualities earn high scores from the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). Prices for these lots start at $20 per kilogram of green beans and can reach up to $2000.”

Rare varieties are sold at special auctions, making it difficult to predict their prices. Farmers bring their best beans to auctions, usually held near plantations. The most famous auctions are Cup of Excellence (COE) and Best of Panama.

There’s no definitive ranking of the most expensive coffee varieties, as prices fluctuate and new varieties emerge. However, annual statistics can be compiled. Insider Monkey journalists created a consolidated ranking for 2023, featuring the 12 most expensive coffee varieties. The ranking was based on information from major publications (CNBC, Times, Luxe Digital, and Ventured) and official producer websites. Prices are listed per pound (lb), equivalent to 454 grams. Here are the top favorites of 2023, from the least to the most expensive.

  1. Molokai Coffee — $45/lb Named after Molokai (Hawaii), where it is grown and produced. This small island with a population of 7500 has a 150-acre plantation and a mill in the village of Kualapuu. It’s the only place that produces this variety. Molokai Coffee primarily comes from the red Catuai tree, a Brazilian hybrid known for its flavorful beans. Its appeal lies in its rarity and unmatched taste, with a blend of strong nutty notes, blackberry aroma, and dark chocolate.
  2. Greenwell Jeni K Premier Roast Coffee — $65/lb This Kona variety (a type of Arabica) comes from Greenwell Farms. While it’s grown in Kenya and other regions, the Hawaiian variety is the most expensive due to the complexity of harvesting. Plantations are located between two volcanoes, complicating logistics, and only red coffee beans are suitable for picking, which must be done by hand, increasing the cost. Grown at over 2000 feet, these trees are subjected to cooler temperatures, frequent rains, and cloud cover, allowing the beans to develop unique flavors.
  3. Kona Extra Fancy — $65/lb Another Kona variety from Hawaii, known for its complex flavor, rich chocolate notes, and vibrant aroma.
  4. Fazenda Santa Ines Coffee This Brazilian variety is renowned for its sweet taste and rich aroma, grown on a small farm, making it rare and expensive.
  5. El Injerto Mocca — $60/lb This rare Arabica variety from Guatemala is meticulously washed, removing the skin and pulp before drying, enhancing its qualities. It boasts a rich, creamy aroma with a sweet, smooth taste reminiscent of dark chocolate, with notes of tea, rose, tamarind, coconut, and sweet fruits.
  6. Jamaican Blue Mountain Peaberry Coffee — $92/lb Jamaican Blue Mountain is a registered trademark, monitored by the Jamaican Coffee Industry Board. It is celebrated in festivals and special events in Jamaica. Grown in a single location on plantations at varying altitudes, its price ranges from $50 to $120 per pound. Known for its smooth flavor and lack of bitterness.
  7. Hacienda el Roble Coffee — $225/lb One of the rarest coffees in the world, with an annual yield of just 22 kg. Produced in Colombia, the owner originally thought the trees were of the Geisha variety, but they turned out to be different, resulting in a completely unique coffee. It is only available from one roasting company in Australia, and its flavor profile is kept secret. Described as tasting of peach, mango, and cream, with a delicate floral aroma reminiscent of lilies and roses.
  8. Hacienda La Esmeralda Emerald Geisha — $250/lb Made from the Geisha variety of Arabica, this Panamanian coffee sold for $10005 per kilogram at a 2023 auction. Known for its delicate, floral profile with berry or tropical fruit notes, Geisha is challenging to grow, with a small yield, driving up its price. Grown at optimal altitudes of 500 meters above sea level, only a few farms can produce it.

    Tatiana Kramchenkova, an SCA trainer and Q-grader, explains: “Geisha (whether Panamanian, Ethiopian, or Colombian) is expensive primarily because of its outstanding flavor quality. It has a floral, delicate profile, often with berry or tropical fruit notes. It’s a worthy choice for expanding one’s coffee horizons. Geisha is difficult to grow, with a smaller yield compared to other coffee varieties, contributing to its high price.”

  9. Kaya Kopi Luwak Coffee — $300/lb A Guinness World Record holder, this coffee was long among the most expensive. In 2001, Kopi Luwak set a record at $300 per pound of beans. Produced in Indonesia, mainly on Java and Sumatra, its unique fermentation process involves the Asian palm civet, which eats ripe coffee cherries. The beans are partially digested and excreted by the civet, then collected, washed, roasted, and sold as one of the world’s most expensive coffees. This fermentation process is believed to enrich the beans with amino acids, making them less bitter and more aromatic.

    However, there is controversy surrounding this coffee. Animal rights activists argue that civets are subjected to cruelty, being kept in cages and force-fed cherries to increase production.

    Tatiana Kramchenkova comments: “Coffee professionals don’t drink Luwak; you won’t find it at major international exhibitions like World of Coffee. This isn’t due to its rarity but because its flavor doesn’t justify its high price. Fermentation of green coffee beans can now be done more effectively and humanely, using methods like aerobic, anaerobic, lactic, and hot fermentations. Kopi Luwak is a thing of the past, appealing only to tourists in Indonesia. The Specialty Coffee Organization does not support using animals for coffee fermentation.”

  10. Saint Helena Coffee — $330/lb Popularized by Napoleon Bonaparte, this variety has been grown on Saint Helena since the early 18th century. Today, production remains small, making it expensive. For instance, Starbucks sold it for $145 per pound. Annual production is just 660 pounds.
  11. Black Ivory Coffee — $1500/lb Named after its production process, Black Ivory involves elephants eating Arabica beans, which are then collected from their waste, washed, roasted, and sold. The rarity comes from only one sanctuary’s elephants producing these beans. It is sold exclusively through the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand, ensuring ethical production.
  12. Ospina Gran Café — $1700/lb Grown in the high Andes, this coffee benefits from volcanic soil, abundant rainfall, and sunlight, giving it a unique flavor. Handpicked at peak ripeness, the beans undergo special wet milling. Ospina uses the rare Typica variety of Arabica, known as the “Champagne of Coffee” for its refined taste and smoothness. These beans make up less than 1% of global Arabica production, making them extremely valuable. Each batch undergoes over 20 quality checks to meet Ospina’s uncompromising standards.
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