How much do you normally pay for a bag of beans?
Perhaps you are content to spend a few dollars each time for a bag of regular coffee to make your morning brew.
If it wakes you up and clears the brain fog, then that’s good enough.
Or maybe you’re more of a connoisseur and you prefer to spend the extra cash because you hate drinking mediocre coffee. But just how far would you go?
Have you ever wondered how much the most expensive coffees in the world cost? If you have, read on because we have the answers for you.
You might imagine that coffee can cost quite a bit – but the most expensive beans in the world are so astoundingly expensive, you might be in for a shock.
A note on auction prices
Before we continue, just a note on coffee prices. Coffees from different farms undergo a process of “cupping” – the professional word for tasting – and it is the cupping results that play a major part determining how much coffee beans will fetch at auction.
As with wine, there are so many variables that affect how highly a coffee is rated, including rainfall, sunlight and innumerable other factors. This means that the value of coffee even from the same farm can fluctuate from year to year.
As a result, the many of the prices we mention here are only intended as a guideline, but the average prices, along with all-time records, can give you some idea of how much the world’s most expensive coffees can cost.
And so on to the list of the world’s priciest brews.
#1 Black Ivory Coffee
Most people have heard of kopi luwak, the “world’s most expensive coffee” (we’ll be coming to this shortly), but in the last few years, the infamous cat poo beverage has lost this title to a new curiosity drink, Black Ivory Coffee, elephant poo coffee.
In the hills of northern Thailand, arabica beans are harvested and fed to elephants. The beans pass through their guts, where they are fermented along with the rest of the elephants’ diet, including bananas and sugar cane (1, 2).
This process breaks down bitter proteins and imparts a unique and supposedly delicious flavor to the beans, which are then collected from the elephants’ dung, washed and roasted.
The company responsible for this coffee claims that 33kg of beans are fed to the elephants for every 1kg (2.2lbs) recovered. Whether the coffee is truly a gourmet item or simply a ruse to separate the rich from their cash, the coffee currently retails for $1000 for a 1.1lb bag.
Alternatively, a small number of five-star hotels offer the drink for $50 a cup.
#2 Hacienda La Esmeralda Special
If kopi luwak is known as “the world’s most expensive coffee” and Black Ivory truly claims that accolade, Hacienda La Esmeralda Special is reputed to be the world’s best (3).
These astonishingly expensive coffee beans are a varietal known as Geisha which originated in Ethiopia and are renowned for being exceptionally fruity and aromatic.
Geisha beans grown on the Esmerelda Estate consistently receive the highest scores from professional cuppers, have been recognized with several awards and regularly sell for some of the world’s highest prices at auction.
The record currently stands at an eye-watering $601 for one pound, a price tag worthy of the best coffee in the world (4).
#3 Kopi luwak Coffee
Kopi luwak is no longer the world’s “most expensive coffee” but it still makes our top three. As the story goes, Indonesian workers on colonial Dutch coffee plantations were not allowed to taste the product they were farming, but they noticed coffee beans present in the feces of palm civets.
Curious to try the drink, they gathered the beans and washed, roasted and brewed them, with surprising results. Soon the planters themselves became aware of what the laborers were doing and also tried the drink. Kopi luwak was born.
In passing through the civet’s digestive tract, the chemical processes supposedly alter the beans, resulting in a mellow, less bitter coffee.
Originally, kopi luwak was collected from the droppings of wild civets, and the small quantities collected justified the exorbitant price. However, most kopi luwak now sold comes from caged animals and there are real concerns about animal welfare.
Even the man credited with introducing Luwak to the UK is calling for an end to the trade in all poo coffee, but for farmers in Indonesia and elsewhere, with prices of $100-$500 a bag, the rewards are too great. For the foreseeable future, this dubious delicacy is here to stay.
#4 St Helena Coffee
St Helena is a small island in the South Atlantic Ocean that was discovered in 1502. It is probably best known as the place where Napoleon was exiled, but now, in coffee circles, it is also renowned as an island that produces some of the world’s best – and priciest – coffee beans.
Part of the reason for the cost of St Helena beans is the extreme remoteness of the island and the resulting rareness of the coffee, but aside from this, the beans grown here are of an extremely high quality.
The coffee cultivated on St Helena is known as Green Tipped Bourbon Arabica, a bean that originated in Ethiopia and was brought to the island from Mocha in Yemen in the early 18th century.
St Helen's coffee is now much in demand by coffee connoisseurs the world over and, after meticulous processing on the island, can fetch prices of up to $160 a pound.
#5 Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
This coffee, as you may guess from the name, is grown in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. The coffee is known for its mild flavor and lack of bitterness, and, due to its prized flavor profile as well as the relatively low output of the Blue Mountains, ranks among the most expensive coffees in the world.
While the majority of beans go to Japan where they are much in demand, the Blue Mountain name is known around the world and is synonymous with premium coffee (5).
Blue mountain is wet-processed and graded according to size. In cupping tests, it regularly achieves scores in the 90s, and a pound of Grade 1 Blue Mountain can fetch prices of between $30 and $50 – less expensive than the coffees topping our list, but still far from cheap!
#6 Finca El Injerto Coffee
Finca El Injerto is an estate in Guatemala that has received numerous awards, both for sustainable agricultural practices and for the quality of the coffees grown there. Finca El Injerto coffee has been acclaimed as one of the top five coffees in the world.
The estate is a family run business that has developed into one of the most renowned coffee farms in Guatemala. While a regular bag of coffee from the estate can be picked up for in the region of $20-$40, the record auction price for coffee grown there was $211.50 per pound.
#7 Fazenda Santa Inês Coffee
Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and some of the coffee grown there is world-class; Fazenda Santa Inês beans are counted among the very best.
The farm is located in the South Minas Gerais, near the city of Carmo de Minas. Since 1979, it has been managed by the Pereira family, who have implemented modern planting and harvesting techniques as well as investing in the latest technology.
In 2005, a coffee from the farm won the Brazilian Cup of Excellence with a score of 95.85, a world record. The most famous varietal from the estate is Yellow Bourbon, and a regular bag of this can be bought for around $20 – although the top-quality beans from the farm will cost a lot more.
#8 Molokai Coffee
Molokai coffee beans are Red Catuai arabica beans grown on the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i. Two types are available, depending on whether they are processed using the “wet method” or the “dry method”.
Wet method Molokai beans are known as “Muleskinner” and are sold as dark-roast beans. Coffee made from these is full-bodied with low acidity.
Dry method Molokai beans are known as “Malulani Estate” and are sold as medium-roast beans with low acidity and notes of chocolate and herbs.
Relatively inexpensive versions of these coffees exist but the most expensive coffees from the farm sell for over $50/lb.
#9 Kona Coffee
Another famous – and pricey – Hawaiian coffee is Kona. Although some sellers label Kona beans cut with cheaper beans as “Kona blends”, the “Kona” name only applies to coffee grown on the volcanic slopes of North and South Kona districts on the Big Island of Hawaii.
True Kona coffee is one of the world’s most expensive – but make sure what you are buying is genuine, unadulterated Kona. Always look for the Kona Coffee Council’s seal of approval on the packet.
The climate of Kona is particularly suited to coffee cultivation. The Arabica beans are grown on around 600 mainly small farms and picked by hand before undergoing wet-processing.
The flavor profile of genuine Kona is full-bodied and moderately acidic with notes of chocolate. The best Kona can cost up to $50/lb.
#10 Finca Los Planes Coffee
This Salvadoran coffee is grown from the Pacamara varietal that comes from a cross between a Bourbon known as Paca (the type of coffee traditionally grown in El Salvador) and Maragogype. Good Pacamaras combine the acidity of the former with the nuttiness of the latter.
This varietal is a relatively recent cross, and the best examples of this coffee have regularly been achieving scores in the 90s in cupping tests. The profile is a medium-bodied, acidic coffee with complex fruit and nut flavors.
A regular bag of this coffee can be bought for around $20 or less, but the best Los Planes coffees can cost up to $40 per bag.
#11 Mamuto AA Coffee
Kenya is known as a country that produces some of the world’s finest coffee beans and perhaps the most expensive type from that country is the Mamuto AA – AA refers to the grading system in Kenya, and this is the top grade of beans in the country.
This is a highly-rated coffee from a small farm at the foot of Mt Kenya that consistently produces outstanding results. The coffee is rich and velvety with notes of fruit and berries. Since the farm is so small, this is a rare coffee with a price tag that can reach in excess of $40/lb. for the best beans
#12 Yauco Selecto AA Coffee
This excellent – and expensive – coffee comes from the Central American territory of Puerto Rico. It is grown in the southwestern mountains of the island at high altitude from old-style arabica beans.
The combination of altitude, optimal rainfall, and soil type ensures that this coffee is regularly counted among the best in the world.
It is grown on only two farms, the Hacienda San Pedro and the Hacienda Santa Ana. This limited harvest, along with the highly-prized flavors of this coffee explain the high prices it commands.
The coffee can be described as well-balanced, with a creamy, buttery taste and hints of chocolate and almonds.
This coffee can easily reach prices of up to $30 per bag.
#13 Starbucks Rwanda Blue Bourbon Coffee
It might come as a surprise to find a coffee sold by high street giant Starbucks on this list, but one of their premium coffees is indeed one of the world’s most expensive.
The beans themselves are arabica Bourbon, one of the oldest and rarest of coffees. These beans are suited to growing conditions at higher altitudes and are able to thrive in Rwanda. The coffee they produce has a delicate and elegant flavor.
Traditionally, Rwanda has been known as a producer of low-grade beans, but when Starbucks first launched this premium product back in 2006, they sold for $12 for half a pound.
So how much would you spend?
There are some undoubtedly exceptional coffees on this list, but now you know how much the most expensive coffees in the world cost, how much would you really be willing to spend? Perhaps you draw the line at $20 for a pound...or maybe you would happily pay $50 to try a cup of Black Ivory.
Whatever your opinion on the matter, we’d love to hear from you, so please leave us a message. And if you enjoyed this list, please don’t forget to share!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.