Coffee enjoys a long history as a classless and multi-market beverage – rich, poor, old, and young alike enjoy coffee, and they enjoy their coffee in a multitude of ways.
Every culture has its own unique history with coffee, and you’ll be able to find a cup of coffee for cheap nearly anywhere on the planet. It’s a drink that has brought people together for centuries and will continue to do so in the near future.
List of the Top 5 most expensive Coffees in the World
- The Münch
- Black Ivory Coffee
- Ospina Coffee
- St. Helena Coffee
- Civet Coffee
The price of coffee has historically been kept low, particularly to help ensure that coffee-growing countries would maintain a massive customer base in the developed world (while ensuring that coffee-consuming countries could enjoy coffee for cheap).
Periods of coffee overproduction have also caused prices to plummet as demand couldn’t quite match the supply (though that’s changing).
Yet while we live in an era where a cup of joe is cheaper than it’s perhaps ever been, luxury coffees are doubtlessly more expensive than ever.
Which is the world’s most expensive coffee, though, and how does it set itself apart from the millions of coffee bags being traded and consumed every single year? We’ve gone in-depth to find out what people are shelling out for a once-in-a-lifetime coffee experience.
Civet Coffee – Cat Poop Coffee is Overrated
Infamous for being “cat poop coffee”, this Indonesian delicacy stems from a history of colonial exploitation and, more recently, animal exploitation.
Historically, when the Dutch began producing coffee in Indonesia for the first time (also marking the first time in human history that coffee had been produced outside of the Arabic and African highlands), locals were prohibited from producing any of their own crops, and all of the coffee gathered was exclusively to be packaged and distributed to Europe.
This led some coffee growers to pick up and stow away civet droppings, washing and roasting them for local consumption sometime in the 19th century.
The result was thought to be better than traditionally hand-picked coffee because the civets would know which cherries were the best, and their digestive enzymes would impart a unique flavor on the coffee before it was washed and roasted.
When civet coffee was first discovered and popularized outside of Southeast Asia, the majority of its production (which was incredibly small to begin with) was limited to the scavenging of wild civet droppings in coffee farms and plantations.
This labor-intensive process would only bear fruit to a few kilograms of coffee per year, making it one of the most expensive coffee products in the world.
However, since its popularity increased, civet coffee has become an industry rife with fraud, animal cruelty, exploitation, and the poaching of wild civets.
Ironically enough, civet coffee is noted for tasting worse than other quality single origin coffees produced in the region, and the digestive process seems to rob the coffee of many of its distinguishing and noteworthy qualities.
Furthermore, the intense poaching and exploitation of “wild” civet populations isn’t just deeply unethical, but contributes to the development and transmission of bat coronaviruses to humans, which is certainly something we want to avoid nowadays.
St. Helena Coffee – Napoleon’s Choice
St. Helena is the Atlantic island to which Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled by the British in 1815, until his death in 1821. Among his many quotes in exile, Napoleon noted that “the only good thing about St. Helena is its coffee.”
Little else was known of his involvement with coffee aside from the fact that St. Helena coffee enjoyed a period of popularity in France before his death.
An effort towards rejuvenating the island’s coffee trade led to the creation of St. Helena Coffee, blended and exported by Sea Island Coffee and the St. Helena Coffee Company, and grown on the very same island where Napoleon spent his last few years.
Aside from being one of the most expensive coffees in the world, St. Helena Coffee is held in relatively high regard, earning several awards from the Guild of Fine Food.
Ospina Coffee – The World’s Most Distinguished Coffee
Believed to be the oldest persisting coffee company in the world, the Ospina Coffee Company was founded by Don Mariano Ospina Rodriguez in 1835, whose visage adorns every one of the company’s top shelf products.
Don Mariano established the very first large-scale coffee plantation in Colombia, and later became the country’s president.
During his tenure, he expanded his business into the neighboring Guatemala, and became an enduring and major figure in the blossoming Central American coffee industry.
Don Mariano’s heirs have continued the tradition of growing coffee in the region, and remain active in local politics, while promoting Colombian coffee to the world.
The Ospina Coffee brand exudes luxury and sophistication – and with nearly 200 years of coffee production under its belt, it feels confident in tagging its products with incredible price tags.
Sold selectively and available for purchase only via certain retailers and the Internet, it’s not an easy product to get a hold of.
Black Ivory Coffee – The Other Excrement
If you’re still in the mood for excrement-laced coffee, there’s always Black Ivory Coffee – undoubtedly one of the world’s most expensive coffees, this product is the brainchild of Canadian entrepreneur Blake Dinkin, who first thought of producing and selling elephant dung coffee after learning of civet coffee, and wanting to find a better and more ethical way to produce “naturally processed” coffee.
The elephants used to make Black Ivory Coffee were previously all inhabitants of the Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation, and while the company has since moved to producing coffee at a different location in Thailand, a portion of their revenue goes towards the care of the elephants at the Foundation.
Unlike civets, elephants producing Black Ivory Coffee are held humanely, and veterinarians have concluded that there are no adverse effects associated with their coffee diet.
The elephants are fed sugar cane and bananas alongside coffee, and the product’s high price is a result of its massive breakage costs – about 33 kilograms of coffee cherries are needed to produce a single usable kilogram of Black Ivory Coffee, because the elephants tend to chew the coffee seeds into fragments.
Black Ivory Coffee is usually sold in luxury hotels (for a price of about $50 per cup) or purchased via the company’s web shop.
The Münch – ¥100,000 for a single cup
Topping the list of what might be the world’s most expensive coffee is the coffee sold at Kanji Tanaka’s The Münch, a little one-man café in Osaka, Japan that sells a 22-year-old barrel-aged cup of coffee for ¥100,000, or about $936.
Tanaka also offers visitors a much more affordable taste (one teaspoon’s worth) for about ¥4,000.
Named after a short-lived German brand of motorcycles known for their very large engines (they’re exceedingly rare, and Tanaka has one in his shop), The Münch is a very quaint and cozy café with an assortment of oddities.
Barrel-aged coffee isn’t necessarily anything new, but Tanaka’s product is the result of an accidental discovery that led him to experiment with very aged coffee.
It all began when Tanaka first forgot a brewed portion of coffee in the back of his shop’s fridge for a solid six months. The coffee’s unique and strange flavor (which he tested out of curiosity) prompted him to experiment with aging coffee in different ways, eventually leading to the development of his unique aged coffee.
It’s important to note that Tanaka’s coffee wasn’t brewed 22 years ago. Instead, he ages the raw green coffee beans in old cheap liquor barrels – the kinds popularized for making homemade booze years ago – which imparts the coffee with incredible and unique flavors, especially over several decades.
His experimentation led him to discover that his coffees changed the most after about 10 years, and while his 22-year-old coffee is an extreme novelty, he sells a variety of coffees roasted in-house.
After selecting his aged beans, he roasts them to a very dark roast in-house and grinds them finely, before utilizing a Nel Drip system to extract the coffee very slowly.
Nel Drip coffee, which is a slow drip technique that originated in Japan, is known for its extreme under extraction utilizing a lower temperature of water and letting the water very slowly pour over the grounds.
This results in an excruciatingly slow drip of coffee, eventually leading to the final product.
The aged beans, the special quality of the barrels, and the unique quality of the brewing method all contribute to the extreme price tag – which some tasters have noted is definitely worth it.
And if you don’t have a thousand bucks to spend on a cup? You can still order a teaspoonful and have a regular cup of coffee afterward.
Here’s what the coffee looks like.