The Most Expensive Coffee in the World

August 14, 2021

Cup of coffee on a table.

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world, and there are many different varieties to enjoy to get that caffeine fix so many need early in the morning. But if you’re looking to ramp up your coffee consumption and try some of the rarest and most expensive coffees in the world, you’ll have to come to terms with where they came from.

One of the most expensive coffees on the planet begins in a curious way. It’s Kopi Luwak coffee from Indonesia, and it’s made possible by the digestive process of a certain animal of the Sumatran jungle called the civet cat. This wild cat eats the ripe coffee cherries and digests everything but the coffee beans inside. It then poops out the beans which are gathered up by human harvesters.

Fascinatingly or disgustingly, the unique taste of the expensive brew is thought to be made possible by secretions from the anal glands of the animal as the beans pass through that area of its body. After all this, the beans are cleaned, roasted, and then packaged to be sold throughout the world. The price of Kopi Luwak varies with its availability. Many times it’s around $80 a cup or runs from $100 up to $600 a pound.

The rarity and scarcity of the bean are what contribute to its high price tag, but Kopi Luwak has a dark side, and we don’t mean the coffee. As the price began to climb for the rare beans, the practice of obtaining the beans became cruel and even fraudulent. Civets began to be poached, and civet farms began to crop up where the jungle cats were kept in cages and force-fed coffee cherries. It even became difficult to buy wild harvested Kopi Luwak since some of the coffee was labeled as wild when it was not, or it wasn’t Kopi Luwak coffee altogether.

Some major coffee buyers have at least begun to acknowledge there is a major problem with caged-made Kopi Luwak and are supporting the wild-harvested version where the production is sustainable, and farmers are compensated for harvesting only wild civet cat poop. It takes research to know if Kopi Luwak is truly made from wild civet cats.

Kopi Luwak isn’t the only poop-infused coffee, however. There is another coffee that is now more expensive and rare, and it appears it doesn’t come with the problems that the Kopi Luwak coffee has produced. It’s Black Ivory Coffee from Thailand. A Canadian entrepreneur named Blake Dinkin introduced this coffee that comes from the digestive tracts of elephants.

Elephants to illustrate where the most expensive coffee now comes from.

The coffee beans start as Arabica beans from Northern Thailand. They are mixed with fruit and mashed, which is fed to elephants. It takes the elephants one to three days to expel the contents, and the beans are picked out of the elephant dung. They are cleaned and washed and washed again before they’re ready.

You won’t find this coffee in your local coffee shop. It’s currently only sold through 5-star hotels and resorts or directly through the Black Ivory Coffee Company. For 2021, the coffee maker allocated only 474 pounds of Black Ivory Coffee to be sold. A pound of the coffee goes for $1,100, and a single pack sells for $120. 

There is one other place where you can buy the coffee. It’s in a store called The Elephant Story in a tiny town in the hill country of Texas called Comfort. The profits from the coffee sold here go toward elephant conservation. A cup of the high-priced coffee will cost you between $115 to $125.

Is there an expensive coffee that doesn’t come from the poop of an animal? The next most expensive coffee that is grown and picked from a plant comes from Hacienda La Esmeralda, a farm located on the slopes of Baru Volcano in western Panama. The coffee comes from the Geisha variety and has won many awards for its taste and aroma. The Geisha Grand Reserve brand is sold in a private estate auction at Hacienda La Esmeralda every year in May. The cost to enjoy this particular coffee that doesn’t come from the poo-poo of animals will run you about $104 a pound.

How adventurous are you, and how much cash are you willing to spend to have a cup of coffee? At least you’ll now know where it’s coming from.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

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