A bargain on the world’s most expensive coffee?


This morning, Intelligentsia sent out a press release/party invitation announcing the debut of Hacienda La Esmeralda’s Geisha coffee, which Intelligentsia bought at auction for the record-setting price of $130/lb. If you like the samples they’ll be brewing at Thursday night’s party (which is open to the public), it can be yours for $99 per half pound.

Yikes, yowsa, et. al. But I wondered what others might charge.

So now I offer you this, with the caveat that it makes no sense to me: An online retail outlet for a Kentucky-born Panama coffee plantation owner,, offers Hacienda La Esmerelda at $33.95 for a 12-oz. whole-bean bag.

As they say in my country, Huh? The site says the coffee is the 2006/07 crop, which presumably is the same one sold at auction back in May. So how does a coffee that wholesales for $130 per pound become a retail product that sells  for about $45.25 per pound? And that doesn’t even take the weight loss of roasting into consideration.

I have a call into in search of answers. In the meantime, here’s a Forbes slide show of most-expensive coffees, produced back when the civet-poop coffee stil reigned supreme.



Filed under coffee, Intelligentsia

2 responses to “ A bargain on the world’s most expensive coffee?

  1. geoff watts

    Just to shed some light on the subject…the coffee being sold on the Geisha coffee website is not the same as the auction lot. It comes from the same farm–Hacienda La Esmeralda–but is a different coffee.
    The farm itself produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-90 bags (perhaps 10,000 lbs total green) of Geisha coffee each harvest depending on climate and farm husbandry factors. Geisha is the name of the tree itself–a botanic cultivar that originates in Ethiopia but has been planted in rare instances in other countries. La Esmeralda produces mostly coffees of other variety–Caturra, Catuai, and others that are popular in Latin America. But they have a small amount of Geisha that is harvested separately each season over a period of a couple months.
    The best coffee from this year’s harvest (as selected by the farms owners and a handful of industry tasters) was pulled aside and entered in a national quality competition. It won again (it always wins, its like the Kenyan marathon runners).
    That’s the lot that got the high price in the auction. There were only about 500 lbs available, and the competition to win it was very serious. Bidders from Japan, Europe, and the US fought over it until the dust settled at $130.
    The other Geisha lots that were sold went for much less, which is why there are other Geisha coffees out there with lower price tags.
    It is important to remember that with boutique or quality-focused coffee farms things are usually done in relatively small quantities–a single day’s harvest or fermentation batch could end up as a separate lot. Throughout the course of the harvest season any given farm will produce a whole range of different qualities, and the goal becomes to isolate the best of them. Once in a while there come along individual lots where it seems as though Nature smiled especially deeply that day and the coffee just sings a little bit louder and with more grace.
    That’s what we are celebrating with this particular coffee–it is the result of one of those ‘perfect storm’ moments, and a great example of what a coffee can taste like when everything goes right.
    hope to see you there!

  2. Oh. My. God. While I confess to being a hard-core caffeine addict, even I have limits. I’ve been known to make special trips to Hawaii in order to actually stay on a coffee plantation (hence my username), but $100-plus for coffee? What’s in this stuff, truffles? Cocaine? Diamond-dust?
    The $39 variant sounds like such a comparative bargain; but then, maybe that’s the marketing strategy.

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