Ultimate Guide | The Most Expensive Coffee & Fun Facts

The Most Expensive Coffee

The search for the most expensive coffee is an intriging one. Even though coffee is a typical commodity, some of the beans are such a rarity that people are willing to pay top dollar for it. Most of you know probably know Kopi Luwak, but there are a few other coffee beans around which are far more afforable (and arguably better tasting. 

This is part three of the Ultimate Guide for Grinding Coffee Beans, a comprehensive guide in which you'll learn anything needed to making the perfect coffee. In this article we will cover the most expensive coffee in the world.

3.0 What is the Most Expensive Coffee & More Fun Facts About Beans

The most expensive coffee is not necessarily the best in terms of taste, but can be quite special because of its rarity, unique processing, and reputation. Although the best coffee beans in the world are indeed more expensive than the standard fare, the most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, actually has a reputation for being quite subpar in terms of taste.

3.1 Kopi Luwak Coffee

By far the most expensive coffee beans in the world, Kopi Luwak beans are widely known as “cat poop coffee.” While critics will often joke about Kopi Luwak tasting like cat poop, coffee of this kind is literally collected from the fecal matter of civets, feline-like mammals that enjoy snacking on fresh coffee seeds. The argument for making beverages from poop goes something like this: civets are experts at choosing the highest quality beans to munch on, and their digestive systems refine the beans by fermenting them and introducing new enzymes. Thus, once the civets have defecated the beans, and the fecal matter has been cleaned, you have the best coffee beans in the world—in theory.

Pricing as high as $10 a cup, Kopi Luwak coffee has been an incredibly divisive product in the coffee world. Critics denounce the cat poop coffee as just that, poop, while proponents claim that it is the least bitter, most pleasant coffee in the world. At a minimum price of $100 per pound of whole bean coffee, you might never find the truth.

But what is the best coffee in the world? It isn’t likely to be the one that spent some time in a cat’s colon. Instead, experts argue that it’s the one grown in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.

3.2 Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

The longest mountain range in Jamaica, housing the island’s tallest point, is known as the Blue Mountain. Coffee grown in this area is widely accepted as the best available, and is an example of one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world; Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee can cost more than $100 a pound. The Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee certification mark is protected worldwide, and only the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can certify brands as selling legitimate Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. This certification process has maintained the integrity of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee brand and ensures that purchasers of the coffee are receiving an authentic product.

Because Blue Mountain Coffee grows in one of the most ideal environments in the world for Arabica, it can be objectively considered as one of the best coffee beans in the world. It is a full-bodied, well-balanced coffee that exhibits subtle acidity, a rich chocolate finish, and notable lack of bitterness.
If you ask an expert “what is the best coffee in the world?” many will point you towards Blue Mountain Coffee, and for good reason. While Blue Mountain beans are some of the most expensive coffee beans in the world, the quality seems to justify the price. There are few regions in the world that are so ideal for Arabica beans, and even fewer yet that are capable of producing such a high quality finished product. Beware of blends though, make sure you’re getting only 100% Blue Mountain coffee beans. Many brands are mixing the beans up with Arabica or even Robusta to make the price go down, along with the taste.

3.3 Kona Coffee Beans

#1 Peaberry Kona Coffee

Hailing from Hawaii’s main island, Kona coffee beans are a much more expensive than standard fare Arabica. Like Blue Mountain Coffee, Kona coffee beans grow in one of the most ideal environments for the Arabica plant. Their quality and price are a product of nutrient rich volcanic soil, sunny days, rainy afternoons, ideal altitude, and a perfect temperature range. Further lending to the restrictive price of Kona coffee beans is the fact that they are grown in the only State in the U.S. to produce Arabica.

Keep in mind, however, that not all beans advertised as Kona are 100% Kona; it is very common for coffee producers to mix Kona coffee beans with Columbian or Brazilian varieties. While certainly too expensive for most coffee drinkers, some brands clocking in at nearly $100 per pound, Kona is regarded as one of the best tasting coffees in the world. Described by fans as smooth and creamy, medium-bodied and balanced, and slightly nutty with a hint of chocolate, Kona coffee beans do indeed sound delicious.

When compared to the most expensive coffee beans in the world, Kopi Luwak, Kona coffee beans seem to be superior on all fronts. Not only do experts and casuals alike agree that they produce a delicious cup of coffee, but they are also (relatively) better priced.

When it comes to selecting your Kona coffee beans, take the same caution as with Blue Mountain coffee as there are many blends on the market. While it does make the price go down, as the Kona beans are mixed with Arabica or Robusta beans, you are not getting the full 100% Kona beans experience. Be sure to check out our "Best Kona Coffee" list.

Editor's tip: Try to get Peaberry Kona coffee beans. These are crème de la crème of Kona coffee, using only the best beans from each crop. Our editor has tasted Peaberry Kona espresso and absolutely fell in love with it.

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3.4 White Coffee Beans

Specialty coffee stores have recently started carrying something called “white coffee beans.” Significantly pricier than regular beans, white coffee beans are actually not that different. They are typically made from the same Arabica or Robusta beans found in most cafés, with the main difference coming from roasting times; White coffee beans are significantly under-roasted. While not actually white, these beans are closer in color to peanuts. The light brown color is an artifact of an extremely short roasting (or baking, as some brands claim) process, which is too brief for the beans to darken.

Typically used in as a substitute for dark roast espresso beans, white coffee beans produce a more acidic, less bitter profile. This is because the shorter roasting times prevent the sugars within the beans from caramelizing, keeping the roast lighter and sweeter.

These beans are more of a novelty than anything else. Few cafés sell them or prepare them, and the best place to find a bag is through online vendors. Beware, however, the under-roasted nature of the beans will make them much harder to grind. Whereas sufficiently roasted beans crack and crumble in a grinder, white coffee beans have a tendency to flatten and stretch. Unless you want significant clogging problems in your grinder, we recommend staying away from these beans, or buy white coffee that is already ground.

3.5 So, what is the Best Coffee in the World?

#1 Peaberry Kona Coffee

Now that we have outlined the most expensive coffee beans in the world, the question still remains: which ones are the best? While entirely subjective to the individual coffee drinker, we may defer to experts and critics to help us reach a conclusion. Based on cumulative awards and overall ratings, Kona coffee beans seem to be the best in the world.

With that in mind, every person’s palate is different. Out of the dozens of varieties, regions, and roasts, only you can answer this question for yourself. We recommend experimenting with a wide variety of beans (Amazon has hundreds of different coffee beans, check it out), from Latin American to Asian to African, and a wide variety of roasts, from light to dark, to discover what you like to see from your beans.

Some people need a kick of bitterness in their cup, while others can forego it entirely. Some like a full-bodied roast that rests heavy on their tongue, while others prefer a light-bodied coffee that goes down like water.
Thus, before you can answer this question for yourself, you have to figure out what it is that you actually look for in your ideal cup of coffee.

RESOURCES: THE MOST EXPENSIVE COFFEE