Everyone knows that working with quality seasonal ingredients is critical to the creation of any dish and coffee is certainly no different. However, as with everything to do with food and drink, a little perspective is important. Most of us can purchase a bag of high-quality coffee beans close to where we live, but like a Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Champagne or an Italian white truffle, there are some exclusive coffee beans that sit on the top of the pile.
Those who can turn a blind eye to the fact that some exclusive coffees have been naturally processed by animals, will discover that luxury coffee isn’t just a joy for the senses, it supports remote communities and improves industry standards.
The most widely known elite coffee bean is the Kopi Luwak.
If you’re yet to sample this coffee, something to be aware of is that wild-sourced and farmed Kopi Luwak have different price tags, as well as ethical implications. It is believed that the enzymatic process the beans undergo as they pass through the digestive tract of the Civet contributes to its smooth flavour and complex aroma. This tropical cat additionally has a knack for choosing only the best cherries to munch on, which entails a better-quality brew. Kopi Luwak is mainly produced in Indonesia on the islands of Java, Bali and Sumatra.
Black Ivory is produced in a remote province in northern Thailand, Black Ivory Coffee involves minimal machinery, relying instead on the natural digestion of elephants. Only the best high-altitude Arabica cherries are selected, and most are unrecoverable during the process. Around 33 kilograms of raw cherries results in 1 kilogram of the finished product.
The remote island of Saint Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean, is one of the purest environments on earth and is where Napoleon was exiled. It is in this location that Green Tipped Bourbon Arabica is harvested, processed and roasted to bring out its distinct qualities that is celebrated by coffee aficionados.
Hacienda La Esmeralda is a family-owned business that produces speciality award-winning coffee in the south-west highlands of Panama. Since 2007, the Petersons have been selling high-quality coffee at record prices through annual private online auctions.
As the first coffee farm in Guatemala to be certified carbon neutral alongside Rainforest Alliance Certification, El Injerto is managed by the Aguirre family, who are dedicated to beneficial agricultural practices and social responsibility. With its mineral rich non-volcanic soil and high-altitude setting, coffees that hail from El Injerto (named after a native fruit) should not be mistaken for roasters that label their coffees with ‘Finca El Injerto’, but which have not been grown in this region.
Genuine Molokai coffee is primarily grown on the island of Molokai in Maui County, Hawaii. Coffees of Hawaii is the company responsible for meeting global demand for Molokai, which is one explanation for its exuberant price tag. When labelled “Molokai Prime”, coffee drinkers have a guarantee for high-quality. The Red Catuai is the highly prized Arabica variety that thrives in the red soils found in this location and which results in rich tasting notes.
Grown at the foot of the Mantiqueira mountains of Brazil in South Minas, Fazenda Santa Ines is a sweet and bright coffee with citrus notes that is low in acidity. Since 1979 the Pereira family have been in the business of coffee growing and setting world records.
Cultivated over five generations, Ospina coffee is produced from Arabica Typica beans, which are grown in the tropical forests of the Andes in shady conditions. These mountain slopes are rich in volcanic ash, which fertilises the soil and enhances the warm, nutty flavour of this Colombian coffee.
Specialty coffee is a term for the highest grade of coffee available, typically relating to the entire supply chain, using single origin or single estate coffee. The widely accepted definition of specialty coffee is coffee scoring 80 points or above on the 100-point scale used on the Specialty Coffee Association Cupping form. Coffee scoring from 90–100 is graded Outstanding, coffee that scores 85–89.99 is graded Excellent, while coffee scoring 80–84.99 is graded Very Good.
Like many things in life, Google can be a good point of reference when exploring the world of high-end coffee, but it’s also worth speaking with a local barista to help guide you.