Top 3 Most Expensive Coffees in the World (2023)

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Updated Jan 13, 2023
Mario Bradshaw
Mario Bradshaw
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Top 3 Most Expensive Coffees in the World (2023)Top 3 Most Expensive Coffees in the World (2023)

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Have you ever wondered which coffees dominate the list of the world’s most expensive ones? Well, the answer might be more surprising than you think. The origin, cultivation, and roasting process make a coffee bean price differ.  This blog article will explore what makes the most expensive coffee bean.

Black Ivory, Hacienda La Esmeralda, and Kopi Luwak were the three most expensive coffees in 2023. The origins of each coffee are distinct. Black Ivory originates from Thailand and fetches up to $2000 per kilogram.

Kopi Luwak is derived mainly from Bali, Indonesia, and may cost about $1300 when obtained naturally. Hacienda La Esmeralda is sourced from the foothills of Volcan Baru in Panama and grown at high altitudes; this coffee can fetch up to $3000 per kilogram.

These rich and flavorful coffees are a world-renowned delicacy whose prices definitely reflect their exclusivity. Let's explore why these coffees are so expensive and whether they are worth the hype.

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What are the most expensive Coffees in the World?

Kopi Luwak

Kopi Luwak Coffee Bean Dung in a basket
Kopi Luwak Coffee Bean Dung

At the top of our list of the most expensive coffees in the world, we have the famous Kopi Luwak. These coffee beans are mainly grown in Indonesia, with most plantations located on the small island of Bali. Bali's tropical climate and rich volcanic soils make it the ideal environment for growing coffee. This is why it’s one of the world's most expensive coffees.

Although Kopi Luwak has a reputation for being highly sought-after, its common names might make it sound less appealing. On the island of the gods, it’s commonly known as Cat Poo coffee or Civet Coffee. This coffee has a distinctive preparation method: it is made from the Civet’s feces, but it’s not what you think.

The Civet, a cat-like mammal native to Indonesia, consumes coffee plant cherries. The skin of the cherries is digested in the  Civet’s stomach, leaving the coffee bean safely intact but slightly fermented.

Finally, when the civet excretes the beans, they are washed thoroughly and roasted to form the beloved Kopi Luwak. As this coffee reaches new heights of popularity over the years, many locals now trap and tame the civets to increase production. Kopi Luwak derived from wild civets, is more expensive as it keeps to the proper process and is animal-friendly.

Sourcing the coffee beans alone is one of many contributors to the high price of this Kopi Luwak. The coffee bean is roasted in an ancient traditional manner called wet hulling. 

When the civet feces has been collected, it’s washed in hot water to remove the top layer of fermented skin.

Next, the beans are dried for approximately two weeks. Once dry, they’re placed in a traditional wok over a fire and hand-stirred until roasted.

Grounding them down is the next pivotal stage of the process, and it’s also done by hand. So, keeping the process in min, a 250g bag of Kopi Luwak can take slightly more than two weeks to make.

The sourcing and roasting of the beans explain why Kopi Luwak coffee is among the most expensive in the world, costing up to $1300 per kg when sourced naturally. See the article Bali Coffee: Everything You Need to Know  for more information about Kopi Luwak.

The New York Times wrote a thorough article on the process, learn more here. Here’s a video demonstrating how Kopi Luwak is made.

Black Ivory

Elephant being fed fruits and coffee beans

The Black Ivory Coffee bean from Thailand's Golden Triangle is one of the world's most expensive coffee beans. 

Blake Dinkin, a Canadian entrepreneur, founded the company. Black Ivory Coffee is prepared like Kopi Luwak, with one key difference: Elephants consume coffee beans instead of civets.

Because elephants are herbivores, this makes a significant difference in the flavor of the coffee. As the beans ferment in their stomachs, cellulose is broken down, which aids in the removal of intense bitterness.

Creating Black Ivory Coffee is no small feat. The Arabica coffee beans are sourced from hill tribes in Thailand near the Myanmar border. The beans are mixed with fruit and fed to the elephants by those working on the estate. Then the wait for the Black Ivory begins, as this can take between 15 to 30 hours for the elephant to digest the beans.

Once the beans are collected from the elephant dung, workers lather, rinse and repeat until the beans are completely clean and dry.

Instead of waiting for the beans to dry for a certain period, the roasters allow them to dry until they retain some moisture. A machine then sorts the beans; the best-quality beans are chosen for roasting.

The beans are roasted in a standard drum roaster before being packaged in one-way valve bags and shipped off to the rest of the world. Black Ivory Coffee has a distinct cocoa and spicy flavor profile with a hint of cherry. It is one of the most expensive coffees in the world due to its unique way of production. Black Ivory can be purchased for around $2000 per kg, or nearly $70 for each cup.

Here’s a video covering how Black Ivory coffee started.

Hacienda La Esmeralda

Hacienda la Esmeralda Estate : lots of lush green trees
Hacienda la Esmeralda Estate

This coffee from the Geish Collection has undoubtedly earned its place among the world's most costly coffees. These coffee beans were discovered around the 1900s on the side of Volcan Baru in breath-taking Panama. It rapidly became famous due to its exquisite flavor.

Like Bali, Panama is saturated with rich volcanic soils. The extreme altitudes in which these beans grow give the beans a genuine and distinct flavor from other beans. The remarkable aromatics of Geisha's coffee were discovered in 2004 during the Panama Competition.

Cuppers could not get enough of Hacienda la Esmeralda's new coffee. The Hacienda la Esmeralda roast won the 2004 competition and set the auction record for the year's highest-priced coffee.

Hacienda remains one of the most expensive coffees in the world, costing up to $3000 per kg. In a cup, Hacienda La Esmeralda contains undertones of luscious honey, crisp lavender, and the aroma of peach and vanilla. What a thrilling flavor in a cup of coffee.

Here’s a short video on the Hacienda La Esmeralda Coffee Plantation.

Final Thoughts

Black Ivory, Kopi Luwak, and Hacienda La Esmeralda have dominated the markets as the most expensive coffees in the world in recent years. It's simple to see why. Their distinct origins generate a quality that is exclusive and difficult to find in other beans. The most costly coffee bean is undoubtedly the Hacienda La Esmeralda, followed by the Black Ivory and the Kopi Luwak.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Top 3 Most Expensive Coffees in the World (2023)

Mario Bradshaw

I am an avid coffee enthusiast and full-time freelancer. I love writing about anything related to coffee or how to make it. I enjoy traveling and trying new types of Coffee from all over the world.