The rise of gourmet AKA expensive coffees has exploded in the last couple of decades. Drinking coffee from far-away places is like taking a trip around the world. The burst of exotic aromas and flavors takes coffee from a mere morning ritual to a gourmet delight. But how can any coffee be worth $600 a pound ($1320 a kilo)?
If you are fortunate enough to drink coffee brewed from these amazing beans, you just may decide that they are worth their price — for at least occasional consumption.
Here is a list of the 17 most expensive coffees (sold as roasted beans) known to coffee commerce.
Market prices for these coffees vary according to availability. They are listed in U.S. dollars per pound and U.S. dollars per kilogram. Two of the three most expensive coffees on this list are delicious but something of an acquired taste.
Table of Contents
- 1. Black Ivory Coffee
- 2. Ospina Dynasty Gran Café Premier Classé Grand Cru
- 3. Kopi luwak
- 4. St. Helena Coffee
- 5. Hacienda la Esmeralda (Panama)
- 6. Hacienda el Roble Coffee
- 7. Jamaican Blue Mountain RSW Estates
- 8. Jamaican Blue Mountain Wallenford Estate
- 9. Finca El Injerto Peaberry
- 10. Fazenda Santa Ines
- 11. Hawaiian Kona Coffee, Honaunau Estates
- 12. Los Planes
- 13. Cordillera Suprema Coffee
- 14. Carmen Patino and Lucas Pinchao
- 15. Biftu Gudina
- 16. Rwanda Blue Bourbon Coffee
- 17. Chiapas Black Powder Coffee
1. Black Ivory Coffee
Price: usually $1500 per pound, $3304 per kilo
At the time of this writing, Black Ivory Coffee Company is currently making this coffee available in one-pound boxes for $1000. There is also a 3-pack box Nespresso-compatible sampler for $80 (a little under $27 a cup if you brew it at home). Most years, nearly all Black Ivory is made available to fine hotels. The relatively low price this year reflects a larger-than-expected harvest of 150 kilos (330 pounds), leaving some Black Ivory available for the retail trade. Black Ivory is both a common name and a trade name. Since the only commercially available supply of this coffee comes the Black Ivory Coffee Company, we treat it as a proper name.
Black Ivory even sounds like the most exotic coffee in the world. Its aroma has subtle notes of chocolate, malt, spice, and grass. It has no trace of the burned or bitter taste many of us associate with coffee. Even if you are not a coffee expert, Black Ivory offers the most distinctive cup of coffee you’ve ever tried.
The irresistible appeal of this rare coffee comes from its natural refining process, by elephants. Black Ivory comes from something its retailers call “natural processing by elephants.” Black Ivory starts as Arabica beans fed to elephants in northern Thailand. The elephant’s digestive tract releases an enzyme that gives the beans a uniquely mellow and smooth taste. Of course, the beans have to be retrieved from massive mounds of elephant poop. They are cleaned, dried, roasted, and made available to the public in small quantities by the Black Ivory Coffee Company.
Black Ivory doesn’t just provide a unique gastronomic experience. It also creates an incentive for people in Thailand who live in poverty to protect their elephants and provide desperately needed jobs that will never be replaced by automation.
2. Ospina Dynasty Gran Café Premier Classé Grand Cru
Price: $150-plus per pound, $330-plus per kilo
Ospina Dynasty Gran Café Premier Classé Grand Cru usually is just $150 per pound. Still, it is currently only available for $1400 per pound or $3080 per kilo, in packages of 250 grams (8.8 ounces) at $770 each.
Did you ever see commercials with pitchman “Juan Valdez” beside his burro advertising Colombia House coffee? Rumor has it that the Ospina family originated his character to help sell their less expensive beans. No such advertising is necessary for their Dynasty Gran Café Premier Classé Grand Cru, because its exceptional quality speaks for itself.
Grown at altitudes of 7700 to 7900 feet (2345 to 2410 meters) in the Andes in Colombia, this exquisite coffee boasts an aroma of orange blossoms (“Azahar” in Spanish), orange fruit, peach, and jasmine. It offers tastes of berries, chocolate, coconut, and macadamias. And it has a crisp, fruity, wine-like aftertaste.
The spectacular quality of this Ospina coffee derives from the meticulous attention the Ospina family gives its coffee plants. “I think of it as a labor of love,” said owner Mariano Ospina-Hernandez, who grew up on the plantation, when asked by a journalist from the Robb Report. Only the best beans, the supremos, are harvested and sent to the United States to be roasted.
3. Kopi luwak
Price: About $600 per pound, $1322 per kilo
Kopi luwak is not the world’s most expensive coffee, but it is the world’s most infamous yet delicious coffee. Kopi luwak consists of partially digested coffee cherries that have been eaten and defecated by Asian palm civets, also known as toddy cats. After the coffee cherries pass through the civet’s intestines, they are pooped out, collected, washed, and processed like other coffees.
Kopi luwak offers unique plum, tea, and rose flavor notes made possible by the toddy cat’s (civet’s) extremely discerning taste in coffee. Toddy cats only eat the most flavorful coffee beans, and the quality of those beans is not lost in the pooping. But there is an international outcry about the increasing capture of wild toddy cats to increase kopi luwak production.
Traditionally, kopi luwak was produced by searching the coffee plantation for random collections of droppings that workers could search for coffee. Increasing numbers of toddy cats are kept in cages on farms in East Timor, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The cats are kept in small cages, given poor diets, and suffer a high mortality rate, leading to outcries by animal rights groups.
Not only are the conditions on toddy cat farms appalling, but there is also a great deal of fraud in this small segment of the industry. Genuine kopi luwak is very difficult to find even on islands where civet cat farms are common, and an Indonesian brand of coffee called Luwak, which sells for just $1.40 a pound ($3 a kilo) is often substituted for kopi luwak.
Unlike kopi luwak, Black Ivory is an extravagant purchase you can feel good about. The extremely high price of Black Ivory is due to the fact that elephants like the taste of coffee and make a habit of chewing whole beans. It is hard to find unchewed beans in huge piles of elephant dung. Unlike keepers of toddy cats, Black Ivory elephants are maintained on an elephant preserve in cooperation with wildlife biologists seeking to keep them healthy and happy and keeping the species alive.
Only a couple of the most expensive coffees are produced by methods involving digging through animal dung. The next 14 coffees on our list are more conventionally produced.
4. St. Helena Coffee
Price: Occasionally available at $145 a pound, $318 a kilo at Starbucks
Total production of coffee on the island of St. Helena is just 300 kilograms (about 660 pounds) even in good years, so this unique, varietal coffee is not available every year. Starbucks sometimes makes a few hundred 8.8 ounce (250 gram) bags of the coffee available at a few locations around the United States for $80 a bag.
St. Helena is a 47-square mile (122-square kilometer) volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between Brazil and southwest Africa. Famous as the island to which Napoleon was exiled, St. Helena is almost as remote today. The only way to reach the island is to take a boat for several days from Angola, which has the nearest airport, 1615 miles (2600 km) away,
The coffee trees on St. Helena are descendants of trees brought to the island by the British-owned East India Company in the 1700s. They originated in southwest Asia, in Yemen, at the Port of Mocha. Englishman David Henry revived coffee production on the island in the 1990s, but by the mid-2010s, his operation had fallen into disarray. Starbucks buyer Ann Traumann attempted to help the island’s coffee industry recover by purchasing about one-third of the island’s entire crop in 2016. Starbucks coffee specialist Leslie Wolford insists that this is a variety worth saving. “It has subtle floral aromas leading to notes of soft caramel and citrus.”
5. Hacienda la Esmeralda (Panama)
Price: currently $144 a pound, $317 a kilo
Hacienda la Esmeralda coffee is currently available in the United States at $36 per quarter-pound, plus taxes and shipping. This coffee roasts and ships only on Wednesdays,
Can you imagine coffee with cream and sugar that tastes like a lemon bar? That’s the experience many connoisseurs of fine coffee report after drinking coffee from Hacienda la Esmeralda in Panama. This one-of-a-kind coffee has tastes of Meyer lemon, jasmine, and peach.
A winner of the 2020 Good Food awards, Hacienda la Esmeralda coffee comes from a planting of coffee developed by the Peterson family. After operating their farm for 35 years, the Petersons developed a strain of coffee they took from the finest coffee cherries each year. This unique coffee only grows on their farm at an elevation of 1500 meters (4900) in highland Panama, not very far north of the Equator. The coffee has won Best in Panama competitions and commands a stunningly high price in coffee auctions.
The Petersons are also celebrated for the care they show their workers. The workers who pick coffee at Hacienda la Esmeralda are paid bonuses to carry them through the off-season when there is no work. They provide medical care, dental care, and daycare for children of workers under the age of five, and provide every worker family with supplemental rice, beans, and fish to maintain good nutrition. Every child of every worker on the farm receives elementary and high school education tuition-free and also receives a scholarship to the University of Panama. No child may work on the farm before the age of 15.
Maybe treating people well makes the coffee taste better. If this were the way things work, it is not hard to understand how Hacienda la Esmeralda coffee is some of the best coffee in the world.
6. Hacienda el Roble Coffee
Price: $100 a pound, $220.64 a kilo
Hacienda el Roble is an exceptionally modern and forward-thinking coffee farm in northern Colombia. The farm’s commitment to environmental stewardship makes it a favorite at coffee auctions in the United States to support health clinics for coffee workers in South America. In 2019, a pound of Hacienda el Roble coffee donated to an auction to raise funds for the Grounds for Health foundation raised a record of $120.05.
The coffee plants at Hacienda el Roble are nourished with compost made at neighboring chicken farms and sheltered under native trees planted as part of a reforestation effort. Hacienda el Roble employs a full-time agronomist to supervise coffee production. The farm maintains a coffee garden with dozens of rare varietal coffee plants. Most reviewers note that Hacienda has a rounder, more full-bodied taste with deeper flavors unfolding with its finish.
These six coffees are among the very most expensive in the world. In terms of flavor and story, they are worth their high price. But there are a number of exceptional coffees that are both unquestionably expensive and widely available.
7. Jamaican Blue Mountain RSW Estates
Price: $70 a pound, $154 a kilo
Jamaican Blue Mountain RSW Estates coffee is also available in half-pound packages. Three estates in the mile-high mountains of Jamaica are descendants of coffee plantations started in the 1700s. Resource Coffee Farm, Sherwood Forest, and Whitfield Hall produce coffee with citrusy notes and significant sweetness even without the addition of sugar, made possible by just the right acidity.
8. Jamaican Blue Mountain Wallenford Estate
Price: $70 a pound, $154 a kilo
This coffee is produced on a small farm on the Grand Ridge of the Blue Mountains of Jamaica at an elevation of about 7,000 feet (2100 meters). The cool, misty growing conditions at historic Wallenford Mill give this coffee a rich, full-bodied flavor that has been prized for generations.
9. Finca El Injerto Peaberry
Price: $60 a pound, $132 a kilo
This varietal coffee is grown in Guatemala. Small beans, or peaberries, are sorted out by hand and roasted for strong citrus flavors and a win- like texture as it cools.
10. Fazenda Santa Ines
Price: $50 a pound, $110 a kilo
This Brazilian coffee is prized for both its richness and its consistency year after year. The mineral waters flowing through the fields give this coffee unique complexity and fruit flavors.
11. Hawaiian Kona Coffee, Honaunau Estates
Price: $45 a pound, $99 a kilo
Honaunau Estates coffee is grown on the Big Island of Hawaii at elevations ranging from 1400 to 2000 feet (425 to 610 meters). Gentle growing conditions give this prized coffee a well-rounded, full-bodied flavor. Be sure to buy Kona coffee that is 100-percent from Kona. Some “Hawaiian” coffees contain just 10 percent Kona beans.
12. Los Planes
Price: $40 a pound, $88 a kilo
This El Salvadoran coffee comes as unusually large beans packed with unusually deep flavor. Connoisseurs of note that it has unusual notes of blackberry and raspberry.
13. Cordillera Suprema Coffee
Price: $30 a pound, $66 a kilo
This coffee from Puerto Rico was once the favorite of popes and kings. Despite recent natural disasters, its producers persist in offering it to the U.S. market.
14. Carmen Patino and Lucas Pinchao
Price: $26 a pound, $58 a kilo
These two delightfully drinkable coffees were the #1 and #2 entrants in the 2014 Cup of Excellence series. Their average judge’s ratings were separated by just 0.5 of a point. Both coffees naturally complex and naturally sweet, a gustatory delight even without cream and sugar.
15. Biftu Gudina
Price: $26 a pound, $58 a kilo
Biftu Gudina is an ancient variety of coffee from the world’s home of coffee, Ethiopia. Marketed by a coffee growers’ cooperative established in 2002, this astonishingly clear coffee is best drunk at room temperature. It has notes of jasmine and tangerine and a wine-like texture.
16. Rwanda Blue Bourbon Coffee
Price: $24 a pound, $52.95 a kilo
Most Rwandan coffees are Arabicas that develop terroir, a connection to place, similar to fine wines. Rwandan Blue Bourbon is no exception to this rule. This excellent coffee yields hints of black cherries, lemon, and spiced nuts.
17. Chiapas Black Powder Coffee
Price: $20 a pound, $45 a kilo
Mexico produces many fine coffees available in limited distribution. The volcanic soils of the state of Chiapas support the production of beans with hints of chocolate, citrus, and honey. Look for them in groceries and tortillerias with family ties to Chiapas state.