If you grumble about that $8 pour-over at your local coffee shop, get ready for a spit-take: The most expensive coffee in the world, natural process Geisha coffee from Panama’s Hacienda La Esmeralda, just sold at auction to Kew Specialty Coffee Co of South Korea, for a whopping $601 per pound.
The sale took place the prestigious Best of Panama coffee auction, where most of the very high quality, single origin coffee sold for closer to $20 to $80 a pound. And while this might not seem relevant to the average coffee drinker, it reinforces two big trends that we’re all likely to see more of: Geisha beans’ preeminence, and Asia’s dominance in the coffee auction world.
Over the last decade, Panamanian Geisha beans have become the elite of the coffee world. Although, the beans do not appear at typical shops very often, they are ubiquitous at barista competitions, and coffee professionals chase them like pigs seeking truffles.
Meanwhile, the majority of the lots at the auction went to Asian buyers. 37 of the auction lots were picked up by bidders from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea. Daniel Peterson and his family have owned and operated La Haceienda since the mid-eighties. In 1997, they expanded the property and discovered the almost-mythical Geisha plant on their new lot. In 2004, Geisha had a now legendary showing at the Best of Panama Auction, and the Petersons shifted their focus to the bean. They quickly developed a reputation as the prime producer of Panamanian Geisha.Still, the most recent sale left Peterson “speechless,” according to an interview with Panama Today. “We did not think this was possible,” he said.