The Best Coffees in the world come at a steep price. There are many fine coffees in the world and the prices don't always reflect the quality since prices are also affected largely by the basic laws of supply and demand, and not necessarily by coffee cupping (professional coffee tasting) results. All of the most expensive coffee beans come from the Arabica coffee plant varietals. This list changes from year-to-year, and even sometimes within a year as new crops show up on the market, as well as disappear from the market. The facilities that store Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee for example, were hit with a flood that destroyed a lot of the crop in late 2016, which is set to drive up the price of an already expensive coffee due to lower supplies.
A bit of a sanity check is necessary when thinking about buying some of these coffees. While it's a neat to say you've tried some of the most expensive coffees in the world, there's no coffee that's worth 10x or 100x the cost of other standard high quality arabicas, in terms of absolute quality and cost. Costa Rican coffees for example, are well regarded as some of the best coffees in the world and can be purchased for $10-$15/lb. A pound of Kopi Luwak may cost 30x that much, but is neither 30x more flavorful nor 30x finer. Typically, the higher end of the market is inflated by low supply.
Here is a list of the top ten most expensive coffees in the world.
1) Civet/ Kopi Luwak Coffee Beans
This nocturnal, weasel-like animal is believed to impart some unique qualities to the beans as they pass through the animal's digestive tract resulting in a distinct lack of bitterness
This means that the beans only need to be very lightly roasted since roasting is done primarily to remove bitterness from coffee beans. However the unique processing of the Civet coffee beans means that you will pay much more than regular coffee beans - as much as $600 per pound. Civet coffee is very popular in Indonesia and Vietnam.
2) Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda Coffee Beans
Cultivated in Boquete, Panama in the shade of guava trees, this fine coffee is known to cost more than $100 per pound. It grows on the slopes of Mount Baru in western Panama and is known for its fine taste and aroma.
3) Brazil Fazenda Sao Benedito Coffee Beans
Cultivated in the Mina Gerias region of Brazil, Fazenda Sao Benedito coffee is known to garner prices of more than $20 per pound.
4) Guatemala Huehuetenango Coffee Beans
More specifically, the coffee known as El Injerto from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala can sell for more than $50 per pound. The coffee earned a first place in the Cup of Excellence Awards in 2006, sixth in 2007 and third in 2002.
5) El Salvador Los Planes Coffee Beans
Cultivated in the Citala region of El Salvador, Los Planes coffee has been known to cost more than $40 per pound. In 2006 this coffee placed second in the Cup of Excellence awards.
6) Hawaii Kona CoffeeBeans
Cultivated on the volcanic slopes of the Big Island in Hawaii, Kona coffee often sells for more than $30 per pound. The high cost leads many Kona coffee farmers to offer their beans as a Kona coffee blend with lower price beans mixed in.
Make sure you get 100% Kona coffee if you want to sample the true origin flavors of Hawaii Kona Coffee. The Kona coffee growing region is located on the lower western slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanos above Kona town.
Hawaiian Maui also has a reputation for high quality, and at a slightly more affordable cost than the Kona.
7) Puerto Rico Yauco Selecto AA Coffee Beans
Cultivated in the Yauco region in the southwestern mountains of Puerto Rico, Yauco Selecto AA is known for its exceedingly mild taste and garners prices of more than $20 per pound.
8) Brazil Fazenda Santa Ines Coffee Beans
Cultivated in the Mina Gerais region of Brazil, Fazenda Santa Ines may garner prices of more than $50 per pound. Fazenda Santa Ines coffee earned the highest rating in Brazil's 2006 Cup of Excellence Awards.
9) Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Beans
More specifically the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee grown on the Wallenford Estate in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica is known for its lack of bitterness and a pleasant mild flavor.
The finest Jamaica Blue Mountain coffees are known to sell for as much as $50 per pound. About four-fifths of every Blue Mountain crop is exported to Japan which nearly corners the market on this fine Jamaican coffee.
10) Haiti Blue Pine Forest Coffee Beans
Haiti's coffee production still suffers from a devastating sunami that rocked the already poor island in 2010, destroying infrastructure and taking the lives of people involved in all aspects of the coffee business. Coffee production continued thanks to the higher elevations that coffee is grown at - far up the mountainside and out of reach of the waves, but dealt a huge blow nevertheless.
They are known for having a balanced sweetness, rich flavor and a medium body. Prices are typically in the $20 - $25/lb range.
You'll notice that these coffees come from all over the world - no single country has a monopoly on quality of price, and the availability as well as ranking changes yearly. Unlike wine, coffee can't be preserved beyond a year or two without going bitter or stale and transforming the qualities that make it so distinctive.
There's a good combination of coffees that are typically known for their acidity and brightness, as well others other more generally low acid coffees.
Farmers all over the world are constantly developing new strains of coffee, hybrids and cross-breeds that will take the best advantage of their local soil conditions. A popular strain that is spreading across the world and fetching premium prices is the geisha coffee.
A new trend is for farmers to keep the coffee cherry and dry it for sale along with the coffee beans, creating a product known as cascara, which helps them increase sales and could result in lower coffee prices. Generally, higher quality and more expensive coffees would also make for better cascara.
Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips
Spending so much on a pound of coffee beans means you want to get the best bang-for-your-buck from it. Check out our tips on brewing the perfect cup of coffee see the Espresso Coffee Guide's section on Coffee Brewing.
For easy to follow instructions on how to make great espresso drinks see Espresso Drink Recipes and the How to make Lattes and Cappuccinos for tips on making a cascara latte. Also provided are tips on Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot.
For the history of espresso and coffee see World's Best History of Coffee, and get an understanding of why some coffees have low supply, due to political strife and artificial trade barriers. For a complete list of coffee terminology with detailed definitions see the Espresso Coffee Guide's Coffee and Espresso Glossary.