When it comes to the different types of coffee beans at your local grocery store, you will notice that there is some variance between the prices of different coffee styles.
There are generic and “entry-level” coffee brands that work to bring good value for a reasonable price, while others offer a more luxurious coffee experience with carefully selected blends of coffee beans and roasts.
While the difference between the cheapest and most expensive bags of coffee beans at your local store may only be $10 to $30, there are more coveted types of coffee that can cost up to $500 per pound.
In this article, we will take a look at the 5 most expensive coffee beans in the world, and why they come with such a hefty price.
The Most Expensive Coffee Beans
Molokai coffee is grown and cultivated in a specific area on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Similar to Kona coffee, it can only be produced in a specific area and must meet a handful of minimum requirements in a system similar to that of the wine regions of France.
One of the most important factors that set Molokai coffee apart from other styles of coffee beans is the rigorous testing that each batch has to go through. This helps to remove any moldy or sour coffee beans, which show up regularly in all styles of coffee.
The fact that there is a very low allowable limit of these “defective” and moldy coffee beans helps make this one of the most consistent and high-quality types of coffee on earth. Variance in terms of coffee bean quality is a built-in factor for some other styles, while Molokai coffee allows for only the best in each batch.
Many people compare the taste profile of Molokai coffee to that of chocolate and other luscious and rich desserts. The average price per pound of Molokai coffee hovers somewhere between $45 and $65 per pound depending on a number of factors like season and supply.
Saint Helena Coffee
Saint Helena Island is a British territory that is located in the Atlantic Ocean far off the coast of Angola. It is most famous for being the area where Napoleon was exiled, and eventually died. Today, coffee is one of the only exports from this remote island, and the coffee grown there is coveted by many as the best in the world.
The coffee plant was introduced to this remote island in the year 1732 by the powerhouse British East India Company, and it has thrived there ever since. Napoleon was actually one of the first to bring global recognition and fame to this remarkably smooth and flavourful style of coffee.
Serious coffee enthusiasts all throughout Europe have long praised coffee from Saint Helena Island to be of superior flavor and quality compared to the majority of other available coffee bean blends. It has maintained popularity worldwide for many centuries, and it is one of the rarest and most expensive styles of coffee on earth today.
On average, one pound of coffee from Saint Helena will cost somewhere between $100 and $150 in the United States. This is due to the scarcity of these coffee beans on the global marketplace, as coffee is fairly plentiful and inexpensive for travelers to enjoy on the island.
El Injerto Peaberry
El Injerto Peaberry is a well-known and highly coveted brand of coffee from Guatemala that has dominated many of the top coffee awards on earth over the past ten years. It comes from one of the most sought-after areas in the world in terms of coffee bean production, and only certain beans are allowed in this particular blend.
The term “peaberry” refers to the size of the coffee beans that are selected for this high-end specialty coffee style, as only smaller beans of uniform size are allowed in the final product. This increases the consistency and quality of the final product by a considerable margin compared to nonuniform coffee bean sizes.
This is considered to be one of the most refined and complex coffees in the world by serious coffee enthusiasts, and it is a regular winner of some of the most prestigious coffee competitions on earth. It can be very difficult to procure, and the best batches from the finest growers can often only be found at auction.
It is not uncommon for one pound of El Injerto Peaberry coffee beans to sell for upwards of $500 at auction. It can be very difficult to find this particular blend, though other En Injerto can sometimes be found at high-end boutique tea and coffee retailers.
Black Ivory Coffee
Black Ivory Coffee is one of the rarest and most unique styles of coffee in the entire world. It is produced in Thailand, where elephants consume raw coffee cherries, digest them, and later excrete them. The berries that remain intact after excretion are then harvested, cleaned, and prepared for sale.
There are special enzymes within the digestive tract of the elephant that naturally break down some of the proteins within the coffee cherry during the digestion process, leading to a very unique coffee bean that makes a distinctly delicious cup of coffee.
Many people claim that the tasting profile of Black Ivory Coffee has notes of baking spices, malt, and chocolate. It does not have the natural bitterness that is present in the majority of other coffees from around the world, which is partially due to the elephant digestion process.
A single pound of Black Ivory Coffee usually sells for over $1000, as there are many different steps and intricate processes that go into its production. The company currently has just under two dozen elephants that they care for, some of which were rescued from abusive tourism situations.
Another factor that contributes to the high prices of this specialty coffee is the number of coffee cherries that are required to produce it. It is estimated that to cultivate each pound of Black Ivory coffee, over 30 pounds of coffee cherries must be fed to an elephant.
The vast majority of coffee cherries are broken down and chewed by the elephants, and only whole beans that are recovered from the excrement can be used in the final product. There are also a considerable amount of berries that are excreted deep in the bush and can not be recovered.
Kopi Luwak Coffee
While Black Ivory Coffee famously uses fully digested coffee cherries by elephants in Thailand, Kopi Luwak is made using a similar process with a different animal in a handful of specific Indonesian islands. It is made using coffee cherries that are digested and excreted by the Asian palm civet.
The Asian palm civet is a small animal that looks somewhat similar to a badger or a fox at first glance. While the elephants used in the production of Black Ivory coffee are generally well cared for and sometimes rescued, poaching and illegal trapping are major issues to the prominence and high prices of Kopi Luwak coffee.
Kopi Luwak coffee generally carries a price tag of between $500 and $700 per pound, and it is one of the more accessible styles of coffee featured on this list. It can be purchased online, though it is recommended to instead support Black Ivory coffee due to their superior proven track record with the humane treatment of exotic animals.
Most Expensive Coffee Beans – Conclusion
While many people are aware of a handful of high-end coffee brands and the artisan options available at their favorite local coffee shops, not everyone knows about the most expensive styles of coffee in the world.
Black Ivory coffee and Kopi Luwak coffee are both made using fully digested coffee beans by exotic animals, which give them a distinct flavor that is full of flavor and lacking in bitterness. Molokai coffee is produced on the island of Maui and undergoes an excruciating quality control process for supreme quality and consistency.
Saint Helena is another rare and expensive island coffee, though it hails from across the globe in the South Atlantic far off the coast of Africa. El Injerto Peaberry rounds out the list of the world’s most expensive coffee beans, which feature a uniquely small and uniform bean size.